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Irish feel they can sparkle again

Martin O'Neill's Ireland will try everything, from using the diamond formation to invoking memories of the 1994 FIFA World Cup, to get past Italy in Lille on Wednesday.

Irish feel they can sparkle again
Irish feel they can sparkle again ©AFP/Getty Images

Reviving the sparkle

The Republic of Ireland's change in fortunes during the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying campaign coincided with Martin O'Neill's implementation of a diamond formation. It was also this strategy that helped for long periods in their opening match of the tournament, the 1-1 Group E draw with Sweden

Having subsequently altered his tactics to try to contain a talented Belgium team, O'Neill may revert to a two-man attack for the must-win game against Italy in Lille. "I think you have to be flexible in your formation," the 64-year-old told EURO2016.com in Dublin prior to the finals.

Positive attitude

After their second-half undoing by Marc Wilmots' Red Devils in Bordeaux on Saturday, Ireland's players have spoken of their desire to quickly lift themselves for the Azzurri. "There's no point feeling sorry for ourselves; we have to get ready and go again," full-back Seamus Coleman said.

"We'll throw absolutely everything into this match," O’Neill added, while Robbie Keane was equally determined, saying: "We've had some good games against Italy [down the years]. I'm fairly confident we can get something out of this one." 

Keane still gets Ireland buzz
Keane still gets Ireland buzz

Fond memories

One of the "good games" striker Keane referred to, came almost 22 years ago to the day when Ireland defeated Italy 1-0 in a group stage encounter at the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

"It's been done before; it's not an impossible mission we're on," said Ireland assistant coach Roy Keane, who played at the Giants Stadium that day. "We'll have to be at our very best and we'll need to see players playing with courage against Italy, [but] it can be done." 

All to play for

Having endured successive group-stage losses to Croatia and Spain at UEFA EURO 2012, Ireland had little more than pride at stake when they faced Italy in their final match in the section in Poznan: a 2-0 reversal.

With the four best third-place finishers joining the group winners and runners-up in the last 16 this time, however, Ireland's point against Sweden gives them something to play for on Wednesday. "To get a point on the board, considering we got none four years ago, it's something to build on," said winger James McClean. 

Seamus Coleman reflects on defeat
Seamus Coleman reflects on defeat

Strong resolve

A little over 12 months ago, Ireland were fourth in their EURO qualifying section and looking out of contention. However, the ensuing revival produced by the Boys in Green – which included a win against world champions Germany and a play-off triumph over Bosnia and Herzegovina – has instilled a belief in the ranks.

"They've had their disappointments and setbacks [in the past], but I have to take my hat off to them for bouncing back," Roy Keane said.