Even though Northern Ireland will be watching World Cup 2022 from a distance, they have a chance to play a major role in denying European champion Italy a direct promotion.
They are coming to this clash after a narrow 1:0 victory last time at home against underdogs from Lithuania, obviously lacking more creativity in the front, as the guests have done them a favor and scored their own goal back in the 18th, while their strong defense is something that they can definitely rely on if they want to be somewhat competitive against visitors from Italy.
Defenders McLaughlin (5/0, Morecambe), Smith (19/1, Hearts), midfielders McCalmont (4/0, Morecambe) and forwards Charles (6/0, Accrington) and Smyth (3/1, Leyton) are missing out this time.
Italians missed a great chance to secure a direct promotion as they came from a 1:1 draw against Switzerland at home, not using their great opportunity from the penalty in the last minutes, and now have the imperative of a convincing victory.
They still sit on top, divided only by a better score difference compared to the Swiss, which can easily be compensated, so I am expecting a maximum engagement of Roberto Mancini’s men in the upcoming clash.
The guests miss defender Chiellini (114/8, Juventus), midfielders Pellegrini (20/3, Roma), Zaniolo (8/2, Roma), Verratti (48/3, PSG) and striker Immobile (54/15, Lazio).
Head to Head matches
25.03.21 Italy vs Northern Ireland 2 : 0
11.10.11 Italy vs Northern Ireland 3 : 0
08.10.10 Northern Ireland vs Italy 0 : 0
06.06.09 Italy vs Northern Ireland 3 : 0
03.06.03 Italy vs Northern Ireland 2 : 0
Shaken, but still way better
A bad memory of their last World Cup failure is still fresh, and I am positive that the Italians will do their best to meet the high expectations.
They need a convincing victory to be sure of their further progress from the top and considering an obvious quality gap that is apparently present, I have no doubts about their success in outplaying Northern Ireland with goals differences.