Do you remember the five times Ireland successfully pulled off an Italian job?

We look back at the times the Boys in Green either beat or held the Azzurri

BY Raf Diallo 16:15 Wednesday 22 June 2016, 16:15 22 Jun 2016

Ray Houghton celebrates scoring ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

It won't come as much of a surprise but Italy lead the head-to-head record with Ireland at international level.

In 13 meetings, the four-time World Cup winners have won eight times.

Which means that ahead of tonight's Euro 2016 clash in Lille, we have avoided defeat five times over the years.

All of those non-negative have all arrived since 1994.

Houghton's lob

It's a winning goal that Love/Hate actor Jason Barry eulogised about in his article and it is the second iconic goal by Ray Houghton at a major tournament for Ireland.

Six years on from scoring the winner against England at Euro 88, the Ireland legend's lob over Italian shot-stopper Gianluca Pagliuca in a 1-0 win at USA 94 is one of the all-time great memories from our adventures at major tournaments.

The ex-Liverpool and Aston Villa midfielder recently recalled the goal with Newstalk's Team 33: "It was purely instinct, a long ball played down field, Italy didn't quite clear their lines, I picked the ball up. First instinct was to play it to the left hand side to Steve Staunton but Steve was marked. So it just sat up nicely and I just thought 'why not?'"

Why not indeed and it turned out to be our first major tournament win in normal time since the day he put the ball in the English net back in '88.

Robbie's Bari breakthrough

In the qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup, Italy were the elite side in the qualifying group. But we managed to avoid defeat to the Azzurri in both of our fixtures.

The first one was a match in Bari on April Fool's Day 2009 when Vincenzo Iaquinta put the Italians 1-0 up after just 10 minutes.

I remember watching this match with some Italians in a pub in Sevilla and their gloating ended when Robbie Keane turned up in the box three minutes from full-time to steer in an equaliser.

With an Italian manager in the shape of Giovanni Trapattoni and Keane having played at Inter Milan, there was a nice narrative for the papers in Italy to write about.

 Glenn Whelan can score wonder goals

Months later, we met Italy again in our second head-to-head qualifier - this time in Croke Park - and again Ireland could not be bested.

An entertaining 2-2 draw was brought to life by an unlikely source in the shape of Glenn Whelan with this brilliant goal from a well-worked free-kick.

It was a bittersweet game as Sean St Ledger's header three minutes from time put us on the brink of victory. But Alberto Gilardino scored on 90 minutes to spare Italian blushes. 

Lovely Liege 

On June 7th 2011, an under-strength Ireland beat Italy in a a friendly in the Belgian city of Liege.

A 2-0 win was delivered through goals from Keith Andrews and Simon Cox.

Unfortunately a year later, the scores would be reversed at Euro 2012 when the Italians beat us in Poznan thanks to goals from Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli.

Cottage stalemate 

The last time we played the Azzurri was two years ago in May 2014 in a pre-World Cup friendly.

A goalless draw at Fulham's Craven Cottage was a decent result for us, but unfortunately for the Italians, they lost midfielder Riccardo Montolivo to a broken leg which kept him out of the World Cup.

Off the Ball is live from Lille tonight from 7pm with best of build-up and reaction as Ireland get set for a crucial game against Italy.


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