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2016 European Championship, Group Stage 2016
  • Robbie Brady (85')

Republic of Ireland beat Italy to reach round of 16

Republic of Ireland scored in the 85th minute to secure a 1-0 victory over Italy and book a round-of-16 meeting with Euro 2016 hosts France.

Robbie Brady headed home the only goal of the game as Ireland sealed progress after finishing third in Group E with four points.

The result means Ireland will take on France in Lyon on Sunday -- their first meeting with Les Bleus since the controversial 2010 World Cup qualifier that saw them controversially defeated as the result of a Thierry Henry handball.

Ireland went into the game knowing only a win would secure progress but they were given hope when Italy boss Antonio Conte, who was already certain of top spot, made eight changes to the side that beat Sweden.

Ireland had been unfortunate to draw their opener with the Swedes and, while they then suffered a sobering 3-0 loss to Belgium, they did not look to have suffered a loss of confidence against the Azzurri.

Jeff Hendrick sent a fierce drive just wide from outside the box on nine minutes, while Daryl Murphy's header brought a fingertip save from Salvatore Sirigu midway through the half.

It was not until six minutes before the break that Italy showed any sort of threat, with Ciro Immobile swivelling before steering a shot wide, and Ireland then saw a penalty appeal rejected when James McClean went down under pressure from Federico Bernardeschi.

Ireland continued to press for a winner in the second half, but Simone Zaza provided a reminder of Italy's quality on 53 minutes with a superb volley on the turn from Mattia De Sciglio's cross that sailed just over the bar.

At the other end, Ireland continued to make chances but found it difficult to break through a stubborn Italy defence. With just over an hour gone Hendrick did make space for a shot in the area, but his shot was wayward.

Conte brought on Lorenzo Insigne for Immobile on 73 minutes and the Napoli forward nearly broke the deadlock shortly afterwards, curling a shot against the far post after a driving run toward goal in similar fashion to Eder's late winner against Sweden.

Ireland then had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock when substitute Wes Hoolahan went clean through on goal, but he scuffed his shot and Sirigu was able to gather at the second attempt.

A minute later, they made the breakthrough. Hoolahan sent in the cross for his Norwich City teammate Brady, who was allowed the space to head past Sirigu and send Ireland into the next round.

Italy, who will face reigning champions Spain in the round of 16, will hope for a much improved performance when their regular starters return to action.