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Gilardino ruins Ireland’s automatic qualification hopes

Alberto Gilardino scored the goal that booked Italy’s seat on the plane to South Africa and condemned Ireland to a play-off place in a dramatic game at Croke Park. Before the game Ireland needed a win to keep alive their hopes of automatic qualification, they had already secured a play-off spot as Bulgaria got thrashed 4-1 in Cyprus earlier that day. Ireland fans were confident they could win the game but Italy weren’t going to go easy on the Irish as they only needed a point to qualify. The Italy team consisted of mainly players from manager Marcello Lippi’s old club Juventus whose captain Fabio Cannavaro had failed a drugs test a few days before the game. Over 70,000 fans packed into Croke Park for probably the most exciting game of the day, and also the one with most importance.

 Team of Italy pose for a photograph during the FIFA 2010 World Cup Group 4 Qualifying match between Republic of Ireland and Italy at Croke Park Stadium on October 10, 2009 in Dublin, Ireland.

Ireland started well and after 8 minutes Liam Lawrence slid the ball to Glenn Whelan on the edge of the box who fired home to give the Irish a perfect start. The atmosphere around the ground was brilliant after the goal and the Croke Park crowd nearly had another goal to cheer after Liam Lawrence’s free kick was poorly punched by Gianluigi Buffon who had to thank his defenders for clearing it away. The poor start was forgotten by the Italians when Andrea Pirlo’s corner came to the head of Mauro Camoranesi whose powerful header found the back of the net to equalise. Ireland panicked when Glenn Whelan earned himself a yellow card for a late challenge on Angelo Palombo: this meant he would be suspended for Wednesday’s clash with Montenegro. Italy were full of confidence and were on the attack for the rest of the half, but Sean St.Ledger and Richard Dunne were solid at the back for Ireland and made sure it was 1-1 when Norwegian referee Terje Hauge blew his whistle to signal half-time.

Mauro German Camoranesi of Italy score the goal during the FIFA 2010 World Cup Group 4 Qualifying match between Republic of Ireland and Italy at Croke Park Stadium on October 10, 2009 in Dublin, Ireland.Camoranesi makes it 1-1

After half-time Italy didn’t have many clear cut chances but kept the ball well, restricting Ireland to their own half. Everything started to change when in the 73rd minute Alberto Gilardino and Salvatore Bocchetti came on for Italy. Italy seemed content with the draw but when Sean St.Ledger headed what looked to be the winner with 3 minutes to go the pressure was on.

What a response! Almost immediately Italy attack, awful defending combined with a superb run by Vincenzo Iaquinta meant that when the ball fell to Gilardino he easily tucked the ball past Shay Given in the Ireland goal. The huge contingent of travelling Italy fans couldn’t believe it, they had qualified for the World Cup and to do it in such dramatic fashion made it all the better. The final whistle went and the Ireland players must have been kicking themselves for conceding a goal so late on, as commentators say – “you’re most vulnerable when you’ve just scored”.

Alberto Gilardino of Italy gets jumped on by fellow team mates afetr scoring during the FIFA 2010 World Cup European Qualifying match between the Republic of Ireland and Italy at Croke Park on October 10, 2009 in Dublin, Ireland.Gilardino mobbed after late equaliser

Player Ratings


  • Given 7
  • O’Shea 8
  • Dunne 8
  • St. Ledger 9*
  • Kilbane 7
  • Lawrence 8
  • Andrews 6
  • Whelan 8
  • McGeady 6
  • Keane 9
  • Doyle 7


  • Rowlands 6
  • S. Hunt 8
  • Best 8


  • Buffon 6
  • Zambrotta 9
  • Chiellini 8
  • Legrottaglie 7
  • Grosso 6
  • Camoranesi 8
  • Palombo 7
  • Pirlo 8
  • De Rossi 7
  • Iaquinta 8
  • Di Natale 7


  • Gilardino 8
  • Bocchetti 7
  • Pepe 6

Man of the Match: Sean St. Ledger (Ireland)

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