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Jorginho’s minute penalty miss for Italy against Switzerland on Friday night has ensured that Group C is going right down to the wire on Monday night. Both of those aforementioned countries sit on 15 points heading into the final round of fixtures, with Italy holding a two-goal edge over the Swiss in second place and that could be bad news for Northern Ireland here.
Switzerland host Bulgaria on the night, while Roberto Mancini’s men rock up in Belfast for a pair of games that will not only decide who goes to Qatar automatically, but also who will claim third spot in the group. Northern Ireland have been woefully out of sorts lately, and the only team they’ve managed to beat in Group C has been bottom side Lithuania (twice).
Monday 7.45pm – Northern Ireland v Italy
Sky Sports Premier League
With Italy’s great quality, mixed with their desperation for a big win to secure qualification and the home side’s inconsistent form, all roads point to a convincing away victory in this one. Don’t be surprised if it is in a convincing fashion too. After all, we’ve all seen in the summer what this Italian team can do when the pressure comes on.
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There is no doubt what happened on Friday night will have stung the Chelsea man, as yet again he missed from 12 yards for his country – and he wasn’t even facing the mighty Jordan Pickford this time! However, there seems to be no doubt that he will still be the man to step up if Italy receive a chance to score from the spot.
With the Italians likely to attack in waves on Monday, owing to their qualification predicament, don’t be shocked to see one of them go over in the box as Northern Irish legs get weary. That will offer Jorginho the chance at redemption he probably craves, and we’d back him to stick it with a trademark skip this time. He has also netted three times in his last seven outings for club and country, so don’t rule out him notching from play too.
If you value football history between teams, you’ll know the answer to this question should be automatic ‘no’. In the 21 years since the turn of the millennium, Northern Ireland have had five cracks at scoring against Italy, and have failed every single time to find the net.
The reverse fixture in this group was a convincing 2-0 victory for Mancini’s outfit and wecould see a very similar scoreline on Monday evening at Windsor Park. Ian Baraclough has only seen The Green And White Army net three teams in their last five internationals, so we can’t tip them to add to that tally here.
It’s easy to see why Federico Chiesa is one of the most sought-after talents in European football. The Juventus man was in the Team of the Tournament at the summer’s European Championships, and found the net in the knockout victories over Austria and Spain during that campaign.
He will be licking his lips at the prospect of testing a Northern Irish defence that has been breached four teams over the previous three matches. This game should also provide a decent shop window for Chiesa to show his talents, and we can see him testing out the target on multiple occasions.
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