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Stuart Dalgleish 10th Oct 2009 - 13:13

Irish eyes will be smiling tonight, but the Italians will have the last laugh

Giovanni Trapattoni has got the Republic of Ireland into a fantastic position in group eight, but unfortunately for the Italian it will be his fellow countrymen who will be booking their tickets for South Africa first.

That's not to say that the Irish might not be joining the defending champions next June, but even if they get the win tonight they have to hope that Italy slip up against Cyprus on Wednesday to have any hope of claiming top place in the group.

It's an unlikely scenario but with another game at Croke Park against Montenegro you have to think that they'll at the very least do their end of the bargain and get three points to guarantee themselves a play-off spot; the only problem then for Trapattoni's team is the potential big guns that they could face, with the likes Germany, Russia, France and Portugal not yet assured of their place at next year's World Cup there could be some extremely high profile names sat in waiting for Ireland to get past.

All that is still ahead though and the Republic would like to at least get a draw tonight so they don't have all the pressure on them in their final group game, at odds of 17/10 it represents good value - especially as that result will guarantee the Italians a place at next year's extravaganza. Of course the Boys in Green will be going out to get the win and that's a 13/5 shot, Marcello Lippi's outfit are 7/5 chances.

As so often has been the case for Ireland, Robbie Keane has been the main man in qualifying with five goals to his name - including the late equaliser in Bari in the reverse fixture - the all-time leading Irish scorer is a tempting 7/1 to open the scoring in Dublin, 12/1 to score first in a home win.

Liam Lawrence will make his first competitive start for Ireland after starting (and scoring) in a friendly against South Africa, he will replace Damien Duff who is ruled out through injury; the midfield man has been a solid performer for Stoke in the last couple of seasons and could be a really useful threat from set-pieces - he's a 14/1 shot for the first goal but a good outside bet if he gets enough free-kicks and corners into the box could be Sean St Ledger who's bagged two in his last three for Boro, at a whopping 40/1 there's certainly worse bets to be had.

For how the Italians will line-up just look at Juventus' last match-day squad and take out the foreign players; when the Azzurri played Bulgaria there was SEVEN players from the Old Lady in the starting XI with two of them providing the goals which won the game 2-0. One of the scorers in that game, and in the 1-1 draw with Ireland earlier on in the qualifying campaign was Vicenzo Iaquinta - the striker has enjoyed a healthy scoring rate for Juve since his arrival from Udinese and could prove a nice little earner at 11/2 to bag first at Croke Park.

It's sure to be a cracking atmosphere in Dublin for this massive game so make sure you're in front of the screen when the action kicks-off and with a computer in the vicinity so you can claim your free bet on our live score market, for more details click the link below.



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