|Like the smoke around Buffon, Italy's Euro2012 future is unclear
Like in 2004, Italy know even a win will not guarantee anything as a draw between Spain and Croatia and a win for Italy against Ireland will mean all teams would be on five points, but results against Ireland would be irrelevant then--a mini-table between the three teams would be formed. Italy's careless 1-1 draw with Croatia and Spain's 4-0 hammering of Ireland mean that even if Italy were to win handily against Ireland a score draw of 2-2 or higher between Croatia and Spain would knock Italy out.
At this stage, Italy can qualify without complications if there is a winner between Spain and Croatia, and Italy simply beat Ireland, who are, of course, already eliminated.
Other scenarios are more complicated.
If Italy win against Ireland, and Croatia and Spain ends in a 1-1 draw, then Italy, Spain and Croatia will all have 5 points and an identical goal difference and goals scored record. In that case, the team who has the best goal difference in the entire group will go through (that would mean results against Ireland would come back into consideration).
In 2004, Italy were in the exact same position, and their worst nightmare came true: Denmark and Sweden drew 2-2, and Italy went out despite having beaten Bulgaria 2-1.
It is never easy for Italy.
Here are the UEFA tie-breaker rules:
1) Highest number of points obtained in the games between the tied teams in question
2) Goal difference between the teams in question
3) Goals scored between the teams in question (in the matches they played against each other)
4) Goal difference in the entire group
5) Highest number of goals scored in all games of the group
6) UEFA coefficient position
7) Fair play record in the tournament