Poznan, Poland – Italy is set to go up against Ireland at the Municipal Stadium on Monday needing a win to keep its hopes of advancing to the quarterfinals alive.
The Italians have taken two points from their opening two matches after successive 1-1 draws with Spain and Croatia, both of which have four points from two games ahead of their simultaneous meeting at the Arena Gdansk.
Italy must defeat the already-eliminated Irish to have any hope of going through, but a draw between Spain and Croatia would force goal differential to break the deadlock as all three teams would be level on five points apiece.
Cesare Prandelli's men took the lead in their most recent outing, but they missed a golden opportunity to take control of the group as the Italians surrendered a late goal to help the Croatians split the points.
"I don't think we lack character - but there has been a drop in our game from 60 minutes for the last two matches and we need to weigh up our next match and see how we manage our energy levels," said Prandelli. "After that 10-minute dip we created plenty of chances, but in that phase of the game we did need fresh legs.
"For the first 60 minutes we were very well organized - we did not leave much space between our forwards and defenders - but when the game gets stretched and there is more distance between the strikers and the defenders, then we start to struggle."
Italy could be poised for a big victory against Ireland, a side that has lost both matches by a combined score of 7-1.
Ireland was humbled by Spain last time out, falling to the reigning champions 4-0.
"The mistakes we made came as a blow," said Ireland head coach Giovanni Trapattoni. "We don't see these types of errors in training, we don't see the tension.
"But it happened against Croatia and it has happened again here. Spain demonstrated a quality tonight that we already knew they had. They hardly use up any energy as they involve every player, they are like an orchestra."
That defeat puts Trapattoni's men out of contention for the quarterfinals, but Ireland still could play the role of the spoiler by playing more positive football Monday.
"We came to this tournament feeling confident but I am left with the disappointment of the Irish players," Trapattoni said. "Our fans deserve a lot of respect. They applauded and cheered us even when we were behind. I am terribly sad for them. In the next game against Italy we have to make sure we try to leave with our heads held high."