Italy will escape from the mire, say Buffon and Pirlo

Azzurri lose control of own destiny but key men are confident of qualification


The Italy captain, Gianluigi Buffon, is hopeful that a win against the Republic of Ireland on Monday will be enough for his team to progress to the quarter-finals of the European Championship.

The Azzurri have drawn their opening two games, against Spain and Croatia, and are two points adrift of those two sides heading into their last Group C match against the Irish, who have no chance of progressing after back-to-back defeats, 3-1 to Croatia and 4-0 to Spain.

Croatia's second-half equaliser against the Italians on Thursday meant that Cesare Prandelli's team are no longer in control of their own destiny. If the match between Spain and Croatia finishes in a draw in which a total of at least four goals are scored, a win on Monday for the Azzurri by any score will not be enough to see them through to the last eight.

"Against Croatia, the performance was there and so was our will to win," the goalkeeper Buffon told the Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport. "In the first half we could have done better considering the chances we had to score, but we also have to take into account that we faced a strong side.

"We are disappointed with the draw. We played very well in defence despite conceding a goal. We paid the price for one of the few chances they created. We need to be more cynical. In games that are level, such as this one, we cannot give anything away.

"It depends on us and I am confident that a win against Ireland will be enough to progress."

The midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who scored with a free-kick against the Croats, is also upbeat about his side's chances.

"We can still go far and this is by no means the end for us," he said. "We need to grow and improve as we didn't play well in the second half against Croatia. We should have won but we will not let this result bring us down. We will go out with the intention of winning the next game."

Pirlo did not want to consider the scenario of Italy winning and failing to progress.

"Spain and Croatia are two top teams and I'm confident they will go out for the win," he said, regarding media suggestions that the other two countries could contrive the draw, by 2-2 or more, that would send Italy out of the tournament.

Against the Irish, Prandelli will be bolstered by the return of the Juventus defender Andrea Barzagli, who has missed the opening two games with a calf injury.

In years gone by, Italy would have settled for a draw after Croatia equalised but Prandelli's new breed at least tried to win, if ineptly. Part of the reason for such attacking intent as was shown after Mario Mandzukic levelled on 72 minutes, following Pirlo's first-half opener, was that the Azzurri defence is not as strong as previous versions and going forward nulls the threat posed by a relatively unreliable rearguard.

"We could have closed out the game with another goal," said Pirlo, who scored the first goal from a free-kick at the European Championship finals since 2004.

"It was a game to win. We can still go through. We want to grow and improve... it's not finished, we will try to win the next game."

The strikers Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano had another suspect game so Prandelli will be considering bringing in Antonio Di Natale from the start against the Irish. Little else is expected to change in the line-up, given that the midfielders on the bench are generally more defensive than those on the field.

This alone should cheer suffering Italy fans, as well as the fact Ireland have been comfortably the worst team at the tournament.

Several chances were created by Italy against Croatia in the first half and in truth Slaven Bilic's side should have been buried before they had the opportunity to equalise.

Another bright start against Ireland and Italy should be on their way but the Irish will not want to bow out without a fight and their Italian coach, Giovanni Trapattoni, will make sure his team are properly motivated.

"We have wasted a really great chance," said the Italy midfielder Thiago Motta, who came off against the Croats as a precaution, after suffering a head injury. "Now we will think about the next game knowing that against Ireland it will not be easy."

Croatia's coach also pronounced himself satisfied with the point gained against Italy.

"I'm very optimistic for the next match," said Slaven Bilic, whose team have committed 40 fouls in their two games, more than any other team apart from the Czech Republic. "I'm really satisfied we've four points from the two games. It could be even better but four points is optimal, realistic and now we have a real chance to go through."

Bilic had appeared to be clutching at straws immediately after the game, when he criticised the English referee Howard Webb for failing to award his team a penalty.

"I don't agree with coaches who don't comment on referees," he said. "This is very important for my job. I'm sure that was a clear penalty on Jelavic, and the referee was not good. Then there was a foul before the Italy free-kick [from which Pirlo scored]. I didn't like [Webb's] performance. I think he was a referee who helped the Italian team a lot."

However, anything that can be achieved in Poland and Ukraine this month will be a bonus for Bilic, who will end his six-year stint in the national job at the end of the tournament.

"We have four points after two matches – we would be happier to have six, but this is fair enough," the former West Ham United defender said.

"I am sure that the whole of Croatia would have accepted a situation where we had four points going into the last game, and we are going into that game with a realistic chance of going through from a group like this."

Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
Life and Style
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice