Tag Archives: nocerino

Chelsea 0 AC Milan 1: Fernando Torres returns but Urby Emanuelson hits winner

Chelsea 0 AC Milan 1: Torres makes Blues return but Emanuelson has the last word

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UPDATED:

07:41 GMT, 29 July 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Fernando Torres made his Chelsea return in Miami – but the 50million man could not stop the Blues from ending their US tour with a defeat.

The Spain international played 30 minutes of the clash against AC Milan in the Sun Life Stadium – home of the Miami Dolphins – his first appearance of the Blues' pre-season.

But Urby Emanuelson's second half-strike was enough to condemn the Blues to their second consecutive Stateside defeat ahead of their flight home.

Challenge: Frank Lampard is held up by match-winner Urby Emanuelson

Challenge: Frank Lampard is held up by match-winner Urby Emanuelson

Match facts

CHELSEA: Cech; Ivanovic (Hutchinson), Terry (Cahill), Luiz, Cole (Ferreira); Mikel, Lampard (Essien), Meireles (Marin); Hazard, Ramires (Malouda); Lukaku (Torres)

AC MILAN: Ameila; Antonini (Abate); Bonera; Yepes (Acerbi); Mesbah; Traore (Constant), Flamini (Montolivo), Ambrosini (Nocerino); El Shaarawy, Emanuelson; Boateng (Valoti)

ATT: 57,748.

The big Chelsea team-news came from
the bench, Fernando Torres making his first appearance on the Blues
team-sheet since helping Spain win Euro 2012.

Chelsea's final game of their US
pre-season tour got off to an uneventful start, with either side
struggling to gain the early advantage.

John Terry had the first real effort
of the encounter, firing a difficult half-volley from the edge of the
box from Branislav Ivanovic's header in the eighth minute.

Hazard showed a glimpse of his
32million worth in the 11th minute as he easily ghosted past Bakaye
Traore and Luca Antonini in the box before his fierce strike was
deflected wide for a corner.

On the run: Mario Yepes and Mathieu Flamini combine to stop Romelu Lukaku

On the run: Mario Yepes and Mathieu Flamini combine to thwart Romelu Lukaku

The searing Miami heat was not
conducive to a fast, free flowing game – and it certainly showed as both
sides seemed happy to merely go through the motions during the opening
25 minutes.

Traore sent a long range effort wide
of Petr Cech's post in the 27th minute as AC Milan upped the tempo of
their play ever so slightly before Urby Emanuelson nearly played former
Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini through.

Emanuelson missed the first real
chance of the match in the 34th minute, firing over from 12 yards after
being sent clear through by Kevin-Prince Boateng with just Cech to beat
as the first-half ended goalless.

Di Matteo made just one change at the
break, Marko Marin replacing Raul Meireles, allowing Hazard to take a
more central role in the second-half.

Hard-fought: Ramires goes shoulder-to-shoulder with Emanuelson

Hard-fought: Ramires goes shoulder-to-shoulder with Emanuelson

And the Italian manager's heart was in
his mouth just seconds after the restart as Daniele Bonera left the
Belgian holding his ankle in pain with a mistimed challenge.

Jon Mikel Obi then saw his long range
effort comfortably saved by Marco Amelia as the European champions
started the second period with much more zest.

But Milan responded, Cech being forced into a good low save from Emanuelson after the Dutchman was found by Flamini.

Romelu Lukaku and Hazard combined to
set-up Frank Lampard, whose 25 yard strike was again well held by Amelia
in the 54th minute.

Di Matteo made a treble substitution
in the 60th minute, bringing on Torres – whose introduction was greeted
with huge cheers – Paulo Ferreira and Gary Cahill.

Pain game: Branislav Ivanovic suffers in the heat

Pain game: Branislav Ivanovic suffers in the heat

Milan coach Massimilano Allegri made
four changes of his own, with Antonio Nocerino, Francesco Acerbi,
Ricardo Montolivo and Ignacio Abate all came on.

David Luiz glanced a near post header
from Lampard's corner over in the 68th minute, but it was Milan who took
a deserved lead a minute later.

Emanuleson burst clear of the Chelsea defence before squaring to Stephan El Shaarawy, whose shot was well saved by Cech.

But the Holland international coolly stroked home the rebound from close range to put the Serie A side a goal up.

Substitute Mattia Valoti came close to
doubling Milan's lead in the 75th minute – but his clever effort from
deep inside the box was saved by Cech.

Hazard blasted a free-kick from the edge of the box high and wide in the 86th minute as Chelsea searched in vain for a leveller.

Euro 2012 results Germany 1 Italy 2 Mario Balotelli hits two as Azzurri set up Spain final

Germany 1 Italy 2: Magic Mario makes his mark as Azzurri extend tournament hoodoo

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UPDATED:

23:24 GMT, 28 June 2012

There could only ever be one Super Mario in this semi-final and the fact it was Balotelli and not Gomez is probably the shock of the tournament.

But what a thoroughly pleasant surprise it was to see the often troubled Balotelli finally realising his considerable potential on the international stage. It was a moment to savour and enjoy, a moment for the sporting romantics and one that reignited this competition after back-to-back goalless matches that had to be settled by penalty shootouts.

Centre of attention: Mario Balotelli rips his shirt off and poses following his crucial second

Centre of attention: Mario Balotelli rips his shirt off and poses following his crucial second

Final countdown: Italy celebrate a famous win over Germany to set up a Sunday showdown with Spain

Final countdown: Italy celebrate a famous win over Germany to set up a Sunday showdown with Spain

Fury: Thomas Muller shows his frustration as Germany crash out

Fury: Thomas Muller shows his frustration as Germany crash out

Match facts

Germany: Neuer, Boateng (Muller 71), Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Kroos, Ozil, Podolski (Reus 46), Gomez (Klose 46). Subs not used: Wiese, Gundogan, Schmelzer, Howedes, Schurrle, Bender, Mertesacker, Gotze, Zieler.

Booked: Hummels.

Scorer: Ozil (pen) 90+2.

Italy: Buffon, Balzaretti, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini, Pirlo, Marchisio, Montolivo (Thiago Motta 63), De Rossi, Balotelli (Di Natale 69), Cassano (Diamanti 58). Subs not used: Sirigu, Ogbonna, Abate, Giaccherini, Borini, Giovinco, Nocerino, De Sanctis.

Booked: Balotelli, Bonucci, Motta.

Scorer: Balotelli 20, 36.

Referee: Stephane Lannoy (France).

Attendance: 58,500.

Balotelli frustrates the Italians at
times. It was only last summer that Fabio Capello spoke of him as some
kind of national disaster.

Even out here there have been more
fireworks. He has clashed with UEFA over racism, clashed with Cesare
Prandelli, clashed with the Irish fans.

He was once described by Jose Mourinho
as ‘unmanageable’ and there have been times this season when Roberto
Mancini must have wanted to see the back of him at City. But last night
we were given a glimpse of why Mancini and Prandelli continue to
indulge him and why he might just be worth the hassle.

‘He was excellent,’ said Prandelli.
‘Just like the entire team. A team has to have an idea how to play, and
Mario really subscribed to the ideas we had. He is unique, atypical as a
striker, but he is always there when called upon.’

‘Why always me’ asked Balotelli on
that infamous T-shirt. The Germans might well ask ‘Why always us’ when
it comes to playing Italy.

They have never beaten the Italians
in a competitive match and this time they failed to produce that same
ultra-attacking football that had proved so effective in their first
four matches.

1-0: Balotelli beats Holger Badstuber to Antonio Cassano's tempting centre

1-0: Balotelli beats Holger Badstuber to Antonio Cassano's tempting centre, beating Manuel Neuer

Hands up: Neuer was uncharacteristically slow, letting Balotelli's header past

Hands up: Neuer was uncharacteristically slow, letting Balotelli's header past

Hands up: Neuer was uncharacteristically slow, letting Balotelli's header past

They managed a consolation penalty,
converted by Mesut Ozil after Federico Balzaretti handled in added time,
but got no nearer to stopping Andrea Pirlo than England did. The
33-year-old was once again magnificent. In presenting him with the
man-of-the-match award, Peter Schmeichel described his display as ‘the
performance of the competition’.

Joachim Low asked Toni Kroos to put
some pressure on Pirlo and his efforts in doing that clearly dulled the
attacking threat that has been so central to Germany’s approach.

They were poor in defence, too.
Dreadful in fact. But the fact Low substituted both Gomez and Lukas
Podolski at half-time told its own story. ‘We lost our organisation,’
said Low. ‘We made mistakes and we lost our concentration.’

Not a prayer: Ballotelli latches on to Riccardo Montolivo's through ball to give Neuer no chance with the second

Not a prayer: Ballotelli latches on to Riccardo Montolivo's through ball to give Neuer no chance with the second

Not a prayer: Ballotelli latches on to Riccardo Montolivo's through ball to give Neuer no chance with the second

Not a prayer: Ballotelli latches on to Riccardo Montolivo's through ball to give Neuer no chance with the second

Booked: French referee Stephane Lannoy had no option

Booked: French referee Stephane Lannoy had no option

Germany did improve after the
half-time changes, and for a spell in the second half they dominated.
But Italy were a league above them last night. At the back they were
excellent, and in players like Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi they delivered
a passing masterclass — something that will certainly impress the
Spaniards.

Pirlo was a ubiquitous presence, even clearing a Mats Hummels effort off the line in the fifth minute.

But if the opening 20th minute goal
was the result of a fine piece of attacking football, the defending
would have incensed Low. It was not just the way Hummels and Jerome
Boateng allowed Antonio Cassano to slip away from them to deliver the
cross, it was the abject failure of Holger Badstuber to stop Balotelli scoring with a thumping header.

Consolation: Mesut Ozil beat Gianluigi Buffon from 12 yards to set up a nervy finish

Consolation: Mesut Ozil beat Gianluigi Buffon from 12 yards to set up a nervy finish

Consolation: Mesut Ozil beat Gianluigi Buffon from 12 yards to set up a nervy finish

This was a real test for the Germans;
the first time they had trailed in a competitive match for 1,313
minutes, or 22 hours, dating back to the third-place game at the 2010
World Cup.

Sami Khedira did force Gianluigi
Buffon to make one of a number of fine saves, but when Riccardo
Montolivo picked out Balotelli from deep inside his own half with a
terrific diagonal ball in the 36th minute another goal followed.
Balotelli took full advantage of the fact that Philipp Lahm had played
him on side by beating Manuel Neuer for a second time with a stunning
strike.

What happened Mats Hummels and Bastian Schweinsteiger (below) reflect on another German defeat at the hands of Italy

What happened Mats Hummels and Bastian Schweinsteiger (below) reflect on another German defeat at the hands of Italy

What happened Mats Hummels and Bastian Schweinsteiger (below) reflect on another German defeat at the hands of Italy

What happened Mats Hummels and Bastian Schweinsteiger (below) reflect on another German defeat at the hands of Italy

The decision to replace Podolski and
Gomez with Marco Reus and Miroslav Klose was a sound one by Low. It
improved the German team and but for Buffon, who just managed to push
the ball against his crossbar, Reus would have scored with a superb
free-kick.

Balotelli, however, was more clinical.
In explaining why he did not celebrate his penalty against England the
other night, he compared himself to a postman. He said he was simply
doing his job.

Solid defence: Germany were thwarted by the Italians

Solid defence: Germany were thwarted by the Italians

He celebrated last night, though,
stripping his shirt off and standing, muscles taut, in defiance. He was
booked, but what the hell. Here, at Euro 2012, he delivered, and at the
end he hugged his adopted mother Silvia in the crowd.

‘Us and Spain are the two best teams in the tournament,’ he said afterwards. ‘Can we win I’ll tell you on Sunday.’

Wonderful stuff.

The difference: Balotelli remonstrates with Cesare Prandelli after being substituted for cramp

The difference: Balotelli remonstrates with Cesare Prandelli after being substituted for cramp

Euro 2012 match result Germany 1 Italy 2: Mario Balotelli hits two as Azzurri set up Spain final

Germany 1 Italy 2: Magic Mario makes his mark as Azzurri extend tournament hoodoo

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UPDATED:

21:08 GMT, 28 June 2012

Mario Balotelli wrote another remarkable chapter in his amazing career as he fired Italy into the Euro 2012 final with a two-goal salvo against Germany in Warsaw.

The Manchester City man rose to power home Antonio Cassano's 20th-minute cross to put the underdogs in front.

Then he smashed an unstoppable shot past Manuel Neuer to double Italy's lead and take him joint-top of the Golden Boot standings.

Centre of attention: Mario Balotelli rips his shirt off and poses following his crucial second

Centre of attention: Mario Balotelli rips his shirt off and poses following his crucial second

Final countdown: Italy celebrate a famous win over Germany to set up a Sunday showdown with Spain

Final countdown: Italy celebrate a famous win over Germany to set up a Sunday showdown with Spain

Fury: Thomas Muller shows his frustration as Germany crash out

Fury: Thomas Muller shows his frustration as Germany crash out

Match facts

Germany: Neuer, Boateng (Muller 71), Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Kroos, Ozil, Podolski (Reus 46), Gomez (Klose 46). Subs not used: Wiese, Gundogan, Schmelzer, Howedes, Schurrle, Bender, Mertesacker, Gotze, Zieler.

Booked: Hummels.

Scorer: Ozil (pen) 90+2.

Italy: Buffon, Balzaretti, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini, Pirlo, Marchisio, Montolivo (Thiago Motta 63), De Rossi, Balotelli (Di Natale 69), Cassano (Diamanti 58). Subs not used: Sirigu, Ogbonna, Abate, Giaccherini, Borini, Giovinco, Nocerino, De Sanctis.

Booked: Balotelli, Bonucci.

Scorer: Balotelli 20, 36.

Referee: Stephane Lannoy (France).

Attendance: 58,500.

Mesut Ozil's last-minute penalty was
not enough to prevent Germany's suffering their first defeat in a
competitive game since their World Cup semi-final loss to Spain two
years ago.

Indeed, it was their third semi-final
loss in their past four tournaments, one of which, in the 2006 World
Cup, came against tonight's opponents, who have still never lost to
Germany in a competitive game, and now face Spain in Kiev on Sunday.

Germany had started the match as favourites, mainly thanks to their world record run of 15 successive victories.

Having seen how hard England had found it to subdue Andrea Pirlo, it was anticipated they would deal with him much better.

Instead, it was worse.

Sitting deep on the halfway line,
Germany allowed Pirlo the time to pick out returning full-back Giorgio
Chiellini with a brilliant pass to the touchline.

From there, it went downhill rapidly for Joachim Low's side.

1-0: Balotelli beats Holger Badstuber to Antonio Cassano's tempting centre

1-0: Balotelli beats Holger Badstuber to Antonio Cassano's tempting centre, beating Manuel Neuer

Hands up: Neuer was uncharacteristically slow, letting Balotelli's header past

Hands up: Neuer was uncharacteristically slow, letting Balotelli's header past

Hands up: Neuer was uncharacteristically slow, letting Balotelli's header past

Chiellini nudged the ball onto Cassano, who swivelled past Mats Hummels with the minimum of fuss.

Balotelli immediately got himself
some space behind Holger Badstuber and when the cross came, he rose to
power the ball home from six yards.

If that was efficient in its execution, Balotelli's second was brutal.

Advancing from deep inside his own half, Riccardo Montolivo could scarcely believe the room he was given.

Not a prayer: Ballotelli latches on to Riccardo Montolivo's through ball to give Neuer no chance with the second

Not a prayer: Ballotelli latches on to Riccardo Montolivo's through ball to give Neuer no chance with the second

Not a prayer: Ballotelli latches on to Riccardo Montolivo's through ball to give Neuer no chance with the second

Not a prayer: Ballotelli latches on to Riccardo Montolivo's through ball to give Neuer no chance with the second

Booked: French referee Stephane Lannoy had no option

Booked: French referee Stephane Lannoy had no option

Twice he looked up to see if anything was on.

On the second occasion he spotted Balotelli making his run, exploiting Philipp Lahm's failure to maintain the offside line.

It took Balotelli a bit of time to get himself into a shooting position.

However, as the ball sat up nicely, he smashed it past Manuel Neuer.

The Germany keeper had set himself to
make a save. In the end, there was nothing he could do but stick out a
limp hand and fall to the ground, powerless to do anything to prevent
his goal being breached a second time.

Consolation: Mesut Ozil beat Gianluigi Buffon from 12 yards to set up a nervy finish

Consolation: Mesut Ozil beat Gianluigi Buffon from 12 yards to set up a nervy finish

Consolation: Mesut Ozil beat Gianluigi Buffon from 12 yards to set up a nervy finish

Balotelli was booked for removing his shirt as he attempted to celebrate with a moody pose.

He could not keep it up though and broke into a broad smile as he was engulfed by ecstatic team-mates.

It was a performance that put English efforts – and Ireland's for that matter – into some kind of perspective.

Germany though were a shadow of their normal selves.

What happened Mats Hummels and Bastian Schweinsteiger (below) reflect on another German defeat at the hands of Italy

What happened Mats Hummels and Bastian Schweinsteiger (below) reflect on another German defeat at the hands of Italy

What happened Mats Hummels and Bastian Schweinsteiger (below) reflect on another German defeat at the hands of Italy

What happened Mats Hummels and Bastian Schweinsteiger (below) reflect on another German defeat at the hands of Italy

Twice in the opening stages Gianluigi Buffon had fumbled close to his own line but they could not take advantage.

Sami Khedira did launch a volley
towards goal in between Balotelli's brace, but on that occasion Buffon
was able to make the save.

Low took decisive action at the
interval, introducing Miroslav Klose and Marco Reus for Mario Gomez and
Lukas Podolski, whose fitful contribution cannot have impressed watching
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

The change brought some much-needed life into German ranks.

Solid defence: Germany were thwarted by the Italians

Solid defence: Germany were thwarted by the Italians

However, their efforts at hauling themselves back into the contest were repeatedly thwarted.

Lahm failed to hit the target after
running onto Toni Kroos' return pass before Buffon pushed Reus'
free-kick against his own bar and away to safety.

A disappointing Ozil surged to the
by-line but, with hardly any room, Khedira needed to react far quicker
than he did to the near-post cut-back.

Balotelli's exit with cramp meant he
was denied the opportunity to become the first player to score a
semi-final hat-trick since Gerd Muller did it in 1976.

The difference: Balotelli remonstrates with Cesare Prandelli after being substituted for cramp

The difference: Balotelli remonstrates with Cesare Prandelli after being substituted for cramp

His replacement, Antonio Di Natale,
should have wrapped up victory when he found himself in acres of space
inside the box, but dragged his effort wide of the far post, much to
Balotelli's frustration.

Federico Balzaretti's handball in the final minute did provide a few nerves for Italy as Ozil fired home from the spot.

But Prandelli's men were able to reach the final whistle and celebrate their triumph.

Italy"s Daniele De Rossi, Giorgio Chiellini and Ignazio Abate hoping to shake off injuries for Germany semi-final

Italy's De Rossi, Chiellini and Abate hoping to shake off injuries for Germany semi-final

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UPDATED:

23:34 GMT, 26 June 2012

Injured Italy trio Daniele De Rossi, Ignazio Abate and Giorgio Chiellini are undergoing intensive physiotherapy to try to be fit for Thursday's Euro 2012 semi-final with Germany.

Team doctor Enrico Castellacci refused to rule any of the three in or out, even remaining cautious on Chiellini's chances despite the centre back training normally after a thigh problem.

'We are doing eveything possible,' Castellacci said.

Will he, won't he Daniele De Rossi is battling to play against Germany

Will he, won't he Daniele De Rossi is battling to play against Germany

On the comeback trail: Giorgio Chiellini looks likely to play in the semi

On the comeback trail: Giorgio Chiellini looks likely to play in the semi

Chiellini is likely to come in for Leonardo Bonucci in the middle of the defence.

Midfielder De Rossi and right back Abate came off with muscle injuries in the quarter-final against England.

The dynamic De Rossi, who also has a sciatic nerve problem, would likely be replaced by fellow tough tackler Antonio Nocerino but coach Cesare Prandelli has a big decision to make if Abate is not fit for the Warsaw game.

Injured: Christian Abate was one of Italy's many stars against England

Injured: Christian Abate was one of Italy's many stars against England

Fellow right-back Christian Maggio is suspended so Prandelli could either move a centre half like Bonucci or Andrea Barzagli to the right or change to the three at the back used in the opening two group games.

Maggio played right wing back in those games so Prandelli may have to ask winger Fabio Borini, unused so far, to operate more defensively.

Euro 2012: England v Italy – Thiago Motta injury concern

Midfielder Motta hands Italy injury concern ahead of England showdown

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UPDATED:

15:38 GMT, 22 June 2012

Italy midfielder Thiago Motta is a slight doubt for Sunday's Euro 2012 quarter-final against England because of a hamstring strain, team doctor Enrico Castellacci has revealed.

Castellacci said the player had been able to train but they would monitor his fitness 'in the coming days' before deciding whether to risk him.

Hamstrung: Thiago Motta (right) could miss out on the Euro 2012 quarter-final

Hamstrung: Thiago Motta (right) could miss out on the Euro 2012 quarter-final

Euro 2012

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Brazil-born Motta started all
three group games as the most advanced midfielder and would probably be
replaced by Riccardo Montolivo, with Antonio Nocerino and Alessandro
Diamanti also in the running.

Castellacci also said defender Giorgio Chiellini, out of the Kiev game with a thigh injury, is battling to be available later in the tournament and reserve centre back Angelo Ogbonna has a minor knee problem but should be fit for Sunday.

Croatia v Spain and Italy v Ireland – EURO 2012 LIVE

EURO 2012 LIVE: Croatia v Spain and Italy v Ireland – all the action as it happens

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UPDATED:

18:55 GMT, 18 June 2012

Follow Sportsmail's coverage of Euro 2012 as Croatia, Spain and Italy look to progress to the knock-out stages from Group C. The Spanish are reigning world and European champions and are favourites to progress, but Slaven Bilic's Croatia will have their own ideas.

Meanwhile, Italy face the already eliminated Republic of Ireland, but will Giovanni Trapattoni's boys give the Emerald army something to smile about before they depart All the action kicks off at 7.45pm. Email [email protected] or Tweet.

European Championships Group C

Italy: Buffon, Abate, Barzagli, Chiellini, Balzaretti, Pirlo, Marchisio, Thiago Motta, De Rossi, Di Natale, Cassano. Subs: Sirigu, Maggio, Ogbonna Obienza, Balotelli, Giaccherni, Borini, Montolivo, Bonucci, Giovinco, Diamanti, Nocerino, De Sanctis.

Rep of Ireland: Given, O'Shea, Dunne, St. Ledger, Ward, McGeady, Whelan, Andrews, Duff, Keane, Doyle. Subs: Westwood, Kelly, McShane, Walters, Gibson, Hunt, O'Dea, Long, Cox, Green, McClean, Forde.

Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey)

Croatia: Pletikosa, Vida, Corluka, Schildenfeld, Strinic, Vukojevic, Rakitic, Srna, Modric, Pranjic, Mandzukic. Subs: Kelava, Simunic, Buljat, Jelavic, Badelj, Vrsaljko, Dujmovic, Kalinic, Kranjcar, Perisic, Eduardo, Subasic.

Spain: Casillas, Arbeloa, Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Alonso, Silva, Torres, Iniesta. Subs: Valdes, Albiol, Javi Martinez, Juanfran, Pedro, Fabregas, Negredo, Mata, Llorente, Santi Cazorla, Jesus Navas, Reina.

Referee: Wolfgang Stark (Germany)

10min: Nowt much in the way of goalmouth action thus far. In either game. Daniele De Rossi's volley from 20 yards out which hobbled wide is the best opportunity we've seen.

7min: In what is surely a two-fingered salute to Roy Keane, the Irish fans are on their feet, singing and dancing their Lucky Charm-encrusted hearts out. Keano wants the fans to focus on the players' actions, not support them regardless of performance. That's certainly not being considered tonight!

5min: Croatia are playing the better football in the match with Spain thus far. It's all happening in midfield thus far. But then that's what was expected.

3min: 180 seconds gone and the Irish haven't conceded yet. It's going well!

KICK OFF: Here we go…

7.41: The Municipal Stadium in Poznan is nowhere near full. But the Irish are by far the better supported of the two teams. Hang on, the Italians are taking this game for granted, are they Was all that biscuit talk (see 6.45pm) just a diversion

7.36: Here we go, then. The players from all four teams are lined up in the tunnels. Now question is, which anthems do I listen to Actually, I'm quite partial to Il Canto degli Italiani.

7.29: So, how do you see it tonight Will it go to form with Spain and Italy easing through. or does this fantastic tournament have a huge twist in store tonight You can email or send me a Tweet via the above avenues.

Final flourish: Ireland are hoping to end the tournament on a high after two defeats

Final flourish: Ireland are hoping to end the tournament on a high after two defeats

7.15: No doubt Spain have goals in them (note: I'm hoping for to deliver more insightful comments like this as the night goes on) but can Croatia match them up front Remember, a high-scoring draw, well, 2-2 or above will send the Italians tumbling out.

7.05: The teams are in, eyes right…

6.58: What Keane actually said: 'It's just nonsense to say how great the supporters are. The supporters want to see the players do a lot better and not give daft goals away like that.

'Let's change that attitude towards Irish supporters. Let's not kid ourselves, they want to see their team winning, Let's not just go along for the sing-song now and again.'

What Trapattoni actually said: 'He (Keane) has been a great player and had great success. I don't know if he achieved the same results as coach or manager.

'I can ask him why I think for intelligent man, I can't understand it.'

6.54: What next for Ireland They arrived full of hope after 10 years in the international tournament wilderness, hopes were high for Giovanni Trapattoni's side, but it has descended into a bit of a farce.

While Robbie Keane et al have been played off the pitch by Croatia and Spain there has developed a rather unsightly side show involving Trapattoni and former captain Roy Keane.

'Drop all 11 players', said Keane of the side beaten by Spain. 'Shaddapa you face' – or words to those effect – have come back from the Italian.

But still, win or lose, they're on the booze, the good old Irish, hey… hey! (*Grabs Ireland in headlock and rubs head with knuckles).

Irish eyes are smiling: Can Trapattoni's men go out on a high after the chastening defeats to Croatia and Spain

Irish eyes are smiling: Can Trapattoni's men go out on a high after the chastening defeats to Croatia and Spain

6.45pm: This is not a biscuit, it fact it is not any kind of dunkable, baked, flour-based edible snack, this is knockout football at its best. Confused

Welcome to Sportsmail's coverage of the final round of European Championship Group C matches with drama afoot as the redoubtable Italians facing an early exit if Spain and Croatia share a high-scoring draw.

A scenario described by Gigi Buffon – and the Italian public – as a 'biscotto'. (That's Italian for biscuit, if you were wondering) The venerable stopper has dismissed talk of a stitch-up and told the Azzurri they have to take their medicine should they fail to progress.

'Why do we keep talking about biscotto… as if it was always some else's fault, as if it's never our responsibility, as if others did not have the right to be offended by such talk, as if the fact that (Spain and Croatia) find themselves in this position is not a question of merit but either luck or happenstance.'

You don't see the word 'happenstance' often enough in my book, or the phrase 'good day', but that's a whole other subject.

Oh and the Irish are already out. But, as the song goes: 'You'll never beat the Irish.' Which is factually incorrect as yes you will beat the Irish, beat them easily in fact as they're actually not very good.

Getting ready: Spain are favourites to progress

Getting ready: Spain are favourites to progress

Euro 2012 results Italy 1 Croatia 1 Mario Mandzukic cancels out Andrea Pirlo"s pearler

Italy 1 Croatia 1: Mighty Mandzukic pounces to cancel out Pirlo's pearler

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UPDATED:

18:26 GMT, 14 June 2012

Mario Mandzukic scored his third goal in two Euro 2012 games to leave Croatia and Italy's quarter-final hopes on a knife-edge.

Croatia went into the Group C encounter knowing a win over Italy would guarantee them a last-eight place, but they were decidedly second best in the opening 45 minutes at Poznan's Municipal Stadium.

Italy deservedly led at the half-time interval courtesy of Andrea Pirlo's stunning free-kick, but were never the same attacking force in the second period, allowing Mandzukic to equalise in the 72nd minute.

With four points from two matches, Croatia now face a challenging final clash with reigning world and European champions Spain.

Level pegging: Mario Mandzukic scores the equaliser

Level pegging: Mario Mandzukic scores the equaliser

MATCH FACTS

Italy: Buffon, Bonucci, De Rossi, Chiellini, Maggio, Marchisio, Pirlo, Thiago Motta (Montolivo 62), Giaccherni, Balotelli (Di Natale 69), Cassano (Giovinco 83). Subs not used: Sirigu, Ogbonna Obienza, Balzaretti, Abate, Barzagli, Borini, Diamanti, Nocerino, De Sanctis.

Booked: Motta, Montolivio.

Scorer: Pirlo 39.

Croatia: Pletikosa, Srna, Corluka, Schildenfeld, Strinic, Rakitic, Vukojevic, Modric, Perisic (Pranjic 68), Jelavic, Mandzukic (Kranjcar 90+3). Subs not used: Kelava, Simunic, Buljat, Badelj, Vrsaljko, Dujmovic, Kalinic, Vida, Eduardo, Subasic.

Booked: Schildenfeld.

Scorer: Mandzukic.

Referee: Howard Webb (England).

Attendance: 37,096.

As for Italy, who have now drawn both
of their matches, they know they will have to beat the Republic of
Ireland on Monday to be in with a chance of a quarter-final spot.

Although Italy coach Cesare Prandelli
remains unbeaten in competitive internationals with eight wins and four
draws, he will likely feel this was a game that should have been won in
the first half.

Italy signalled their intent inside three minutes, via Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli in particular.

Receiving Emanuele Giaccherini's
left-wing ball inside the area and with his back to goal, Balotelli made
one touch and a sharp turn before firing a 12-yard left-foot shot
narrowly wide.

It was the start of a predominantly
one-sided half, with Claudio Marchisio shaving the crossbar with a
rasping 20-yard drive just eight minutes later.

A further opportunity for Balotelli,
with a snap shot straight at goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa, and an Antonio
Cassano flick through the six-yard box sandwiched Croatia's one
significant chance.

That came in the 20th minute when Darijo Srna played a piercing low ball from the right into the near post.

Big noise: Mario Mandzukic hit his thrid goal of Euro 2012 to draw Croatia level

Big noise: Mario Mandzukic hit his thrid goal of Euro 2012 to draw Croatia level

All that was required was the merest
of touches from Nikica Jelavic that would potentially have been enough
to beat Gianluigi Buffon, but instead the veteran was allowed to
collect.

Italy, though, retained their
stranglehold on the game and should have taken the lead eight minutes
from the break, only for Marchisio to twice be denied by Pletikosa.

After a delightful touch to leave Srna
for dead inside the area following a through ball from Cassano,
Marchisio's initial left-foot shot was superbly saved by Pletikosa, who
then blocked the follow-up at point-blank range.

Dead ball expert: Andrea Pirlo curls in a beauty to give Italy the lead

Dead ball expert: Andrea Pirlo curls in a beauty to give Italy the lead

No chance: Stipe Pletikosa dives in vain as Andrea Pirlo's free-kick rasps into the net

No chance: Stipe Pletikosa dives in vain as Andrea Pirlo's free-kick rasps into the net

It's a celebration: Italy players run to congratulate Andrea Pirlo

It's a celebration: Italy players run to congratulate Andrea Pirlo

But with the danger still present,
Ivan Ratikic fouled Balotelli on the edge of the area, allowing Pirlo to
whip a 21-yard right-foot free-kick over the wall and inside
Pletikosa's right-hand post.

It left Slaven Bilic's side going into
the break knowing they had to up the tempo and chase the game in the
second half, which they at least started with greater urgency.

But after Luka Modric first fired a
20-yard shot a yard over the bar the encounter turned scrappy, dominated
by niggly fouls and challenges until Balotelli came within inches with a
fierce drive on the hour.

No more: Croatia's Ognjen Vukojevic attempts to prevent Croatian fans from throwing flares into the pitch

No more: Croatia's Ognjen Vukojevic attempts to prevent Croatian fans from throwing flares into the pitch

Stamp it out: Ognjen Vukojevic and Ivan Perisic attempt to extinguish the flare

Stamp it out: Ognjen Vukojevic and Ivan Perisic attempt to extinguish the flare

Stamp it out: Ognjen Vukojevic and Ivan Perisic attempt to extinguish the flare

Then finally, in the 72nd minute,
Croatia made their presence felt in the right way as their two-goal hero
from the 3-1 win over the Republic of Ireland struck again.

Ivan Strinic's ball from deep on the
left wing was missed by Giorgio Chiellini, allowing Mandzukic to control
and beat the advancing Buffon in off the right-hand post from six
yards.

Croatia finished the game the stronger
as they went in search of the winner that would have sealed their
last-eight place, but it was not to be, leaving both sides facing a
dramatic final group game.

Loud and proud: Croatia fans show their support in Poznan

Loud and proud: Croatia fans show their support in Poznan

Euro 2012: Italy name provisional squad

Double boon for Balotelli as City striker named Italy's provisional squad for Euro 2012

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UPDATED:

20:26 GMT, 13 May 2012

Manchester City's Mario Balotelli is the only Premier League representative in Cesare Prandelli's provisional Italy squad for Euro 2012.

The controversial striker is part of a list of 32 names which will be cut to 23 on May 29, less than a fortnight before the tournament in Poland and Ukraine kicks off.

Prandelli has also included five uncapped players – Mattia Destro, Emanuele Giaccherini, Ezequiel Schelotto, Marco Verratti and Angelo Ogbonna – the latter two of whom ply their trade in the second division.

I pick you: Italy boss Cesare Prandelli has selected Mario Balotelli in his provisional squad of 32 for Euro 2012

I pick you: Italy boss Cesare Prandelli has selected Mario Balotelli in his provisional squad of 32 for Euro 2012

ITALY'S PROVISIONAL SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus),
Salvatore Sirigu (Paris Saint Germain), Morgan De Sanctis (Napoli),
Emiliano Viviano (Palermo).

Defenders: Cristian Maggio (Napoli), Domenico Criscito (Zenit St.
Petersburg), Ignazio Abate (Milan), Federico Balzaretti (Palermo),
Davide Astori (Cagliari), Salvatore Bocchetti (Rubin Kazan), Leonardo
Bonucci (Juventus), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini
(Juventus), Andrea Ranocchia (Inter), Angelo Ogbonna (Torino).

Midfielders: Andrea Pirlo (Juventus), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus),
Emanuele Giaccherini (Juventus), Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Thiago Motta
(Paris Saint Germain), Antonio Nocerino (Milan), Riccardo Montolivo
(Fiorentina), Ezequiel Schelotto (Atalanta) Luca Cigarini (Atalanta),
Alessandro Diamanti (Bologna), Marco Verratti (Pescara).

Strikers: Antonio Cassano (Milan), Mario Balotelli (Manchester City),
Sebastian Giovinco (Parma), Antonio Di Natale (Udinese), Mattia Destro
(Siena), Fabio Borini (Roma).

Balotelli is joined up front by Antonio Cassano, another who attracts as many frontpage headlines as he does backpage.

Prandelli, who introduced a code of ethics when he became coach after the 2010 World Cup, left Balotelli out of the squad for a friendly against the United States in February after he received a four-match suspension for his stamp on Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker.

Cassano, meanwhile, fell ill with stroke-like symptoms on AC Milan's team plane while returning from a match at Roma in October and then required minor heart surgery that kept him out for five months.

Previous coach Marcello Lippi left Cassano out of his squad at both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, but he was a fixture in attack in Euro 2012 qualifying under the current boss.

There are also first call-ups under Prandelli for Udinese striker Antonio Di Natale and Rubin Kazan midfielder Salvatore Bocchetti.

The squad – apart from Juventus and Napoli players, who face each other in the Italian Cup final next weekend – will meet up on Monday at a training base in Coverciano on the outskirts of Florence for two days of fitness tests.

Italy are in a group with Spain, Republic of Ireland and Croatia.

AC Milan 0 Barcelona 0

AC Milan 0 Barcelona 0: Defending champions frustrated in goalless first leg

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UPDATED:

21:03 GMT, 28 March 2012

AC Milan survived a prolonged Barcelona onslaught to hold their illustrious visitors goalless, but will be left wondering how they fluffed some golden chances to take a first-leg lead in the Champions League quarter-final.

A series of sublime Barca attacks produced no end product, while Milan had, but wasted, by far the better openings in the match.

The hosts managed to shut out Lionel Messi in red-hot form, though, to give themselves hope for the second leg at the Nou Camp.

Happy camper: Zlatan Ibrahimovic was happy with AC Milan's draw with Barcelona

Happy camper: Zlatan Ibrahimovic was happy with AC Milan's draw with Barcelona

MATCH FACTS:

AC Milan: Abbiati, Bonera, Nesta (Mesbah 74),Mexes, Antonini, Nocerino, Ambrosini, Seedorf, Boateng (Emanuelson 67), Robinho (El Shaarawi 52), Ibrahimovic.

Subs Not Used: Amelia, Aquilani, Maxi Lopez, Yepes.

Booked: Seedorf, Nesta, Ambrosini.

Barcelona: Valdes, Dani Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Puyol, Iniesta (Tello 65), Busquets, Xavi, Keita, Messi,Sanchez (Pedro 76).

Subs Not Used: Pinto, Fabregas, Thiago, Muniesa, Montoya.

Booked: Keita.

Att: 70,628

Ref: Jonas Eriksson (Sweden).

Milan squandered their first opening in only the third minute. Space opened up for Kevin Prince-Boateng on the edge of the area, but he hesitated for a split-second and Gerard Pique charged down the shot.

The ball was then headed back in to give Robinho an even better chance unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box, but he skied the ball horribly over the crossbar when it looked a certain goal.

Lionel Messi, one goal shy of 50 in the competition, gained some unwanted attention from a laser pen as he lined up a free-kick on the edge of the area, but could only blame the turf as he slipped while taking it, with Seydou Keita was offside as he tried to head in the unintended cross.

Messi then saw Christian Abbiati spill one of his shots, but the ball somehow evaded the advancing Daniel Alves as Milan survived.

Barca, though, should have had a penalty moments later when Alexis Sanchez fell over Abbiati after beautiful play from Xavi and Sergio Busquets, but the Chilean perhaps went over too easily and was told to get up.

Barca were passing the ball about at speed and forcing passes through seemingly impossible gaps, but they continued to stutter when it mattered, with Messi offside as he tapped in an Alves cross, while Abbiati denied Xavi.

Amid it all, a first-time ball from Clarence Seedorf put Zlatan Ibrahimovic clean through, but goalkeeper Victor Valdez raced out to make a fine save at point-blank range.

Frustrated: Lionel Messi (left) was unable to replicate his recent red-hot form

Frustrated: Lionel Messi (left) was unable to replicate his recent red-hot form

Denied: Ibrahimovic missed the best chance of the game as Milan came close to stunning the holders

Denied: Ibrahimovic missed the best chance of the game as Milan came close to stunning the holders

Sanchez then looked to have broken clear, but Luca Antonini did not give it up and made a brilliant recovering tackle to prevent the shot.

The second half failed to capture the imagination in quite the same way.

Andres Iniesta cut in from the left to send an early shot wide, but it was hardly a sign of things to come as the game became scrappy thanks to a series of fouls and some unnecessary falls.
Milan lost Robinho to an injury amid the tumbles, but at least cut down the number of direct threats on their goal.

Tumble and fall: The second half was a scrappy affair as neither side could make the breakthrough

Tumble and fall: The second half was a scrappy affair as neither side could make the breakthrough

They should have been attacking themselves in the 67th minute when Urby Emanuelson came on to be handed the chance of an instant impact, only to scuff his first touch when a long ball put him clean through.

Barca began to threaten again going into the final 15 minutes. Substitute Cristian Tello fired high into the side-netting from a tight angle and then Messi saw a shot charged down and deflected wide.
From the resulting corner, Carles Puyol's diving header across goal went narrowly wide.

Shot: Alexis Sanchez tries his luck as Barcelona struggle to break down the Milan defence

Shot: Alexis Sanchez tries his luck as Barcelona struggle to break down the Milan defence

Their best chance of the half came right at the end when Messi stayed on his feet as Milan defenders fell about him, firing in a powerful shot which Abbiati could only parry across goal.

It rolled teasingly towards Tello as he raced in, but cover arrived in the nick of time for Milan.

Arsenal 3 AC Milan 0 (agg 3-4): Gunners" gallant comeback falls just short

Arsenal 3 AC Milan 0 (agg 3-4): Gunners' gallant comeback falls just short

Arsenal's Champions League challenge has ended in drama after beating AC Milan 3-0 at the Emirates but failing to overturn the 4-0 deficit from the first-leg.

The Gunners put themselves on course for the biggest comeback in the competition's history after they flew out of the blocks, taking the lead through Laurent Koscielny's seventh minute header.

Tomas Rosicky slotted home after 25 minutes to double the Gunners' lead before Robin van Persie scored from the penalty spot just before half-time.

But they failed to find an equaliser in the second-half as the Italians held on to take their place in the quarter-finals.

More to follow…

Game over: Arsenal's brave challenge ended in failure at the Emirates

Game over: Arsenal's brave challenge ended in failure at the Emirates

MATCH FACTS

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Koscielny, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Rosicky, Song, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Chamakh, 75) , Walcott (Park Chu-Young, 84), Van Persie, Gervinho.

Subs not used: Fabianski, Djourou, Jenkinson, Miquel, Ozyakup.

Booked: Sagna, Gibbs, Song.

Scorers: Koscielny 7, Rosicky 26, Van Persie 43.

AC Milan: Abbiati, Abate, Mexes, Thiago Silva, Mesbah (Bonera, 89), Nocerino, Van Bommel, Emanuelson, Ibrahimovic, Robinho, El Shaarawi (Aquilani, 70).

Subs not used: Amelia, Zambrotta, Ganz, Yepes, Roma.

Booked:Van Bommel, Abate, Nocerino, Ibrahimovic

Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)

Heads up: Koscielny nods the Gunners in front after just seven minutes (and below)

Heads up: Koscielny nods the Gunners in front after just seven minutes (and below)

Heads up: Koscielny nods the Gunners in front after just seven minutes (and below)

Brief hope: Arsenal came very close to overturning the 4-0 deficit from the first leg - Rosicky doubled the hosts' lead

Brief hope: Arsenal came very close to overturning the 4-0 deficit – Rosicky doubled the hosts' lead

Brief hope: Arsenal came very close to overturning the 4-0 deficit from the first leg - Rosicky doubled the hosts' lead

Van the man: Arsenal's leading goalscorer made it three for the Gunners from the spot (and below)

Van the man: Arsenal's leading goalscorer made it three for the Gunners from the spot (and below)

Van the man: Arsenal's leading goalscorer made it three for the Gunners from the spot (and below)

Starring role: Oxlade-Chamberlain was in fine form for Arsene's Gunners

Starring role: Oxlade-Chamberlain was in fine form for Arsene's Gunners

Starring role: Oxlade-Chamberlain was in fine form for Arsene's Gunners

Incredible miss: Van Persie squandered a guilt-edged chance to make it 4-0

Incredible miss: Van Persie squandered a guilt-edged chance to make it 4-0