World Cup 2010 Qualifying: Italy vs. Ireland

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The Italians need only a draw in Dublin to earn automatic qualification to next year’s World Cup in South Africa.

The Boys in Green, on the other hand, need to avoid losing to stay well ahead of Bulgaria in the race for the playoff spot.

If Azzurri lose, they would still lead Group 8 by one point and then a victory at home to Cyprus on Wednesday would be enough to qualify.

The Italians are unbeaten so far in this qualifying stage and have only conceded 3 goals in 8 games so that obviously indicates the task the Irish have in attempting to win this fixture.

Ireland will be without Damien Duff, Steven Reid, and Darron Gibson due to injury, which could leave the team with a rather bare-looking midfield.

Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro is suspended for this match so Nicola Legrottaglie is likely to step into central defense alongside Giorgio Chiellini.

UPDATE: Defending champion Italy booked a place in next year’s finals after Fiorentina forward Alberto Gilardino grabbed a late equalizer to secure a 2-2 draw with Ireland. The Boys in Green now hope they will get a spot through the playoffs.