Rep of Ireland 0 Italy 0
The Republic of Ireland got a well earned draw against Italy in Craven Cottage where a really good game, played in front of a crowd of 22,879 was marred only by an injury to Riccardo Montolivo that looks like it might rule him out of the World Cup.
Ireland looked in the opening minutes as though they might be overwhelmed with the Italians pressing persistently and Martin O'Neill's back four repeatedly looking uncertain but things changed when an Alex Pearce challenge on Riccardo Montolivo left the Milan midfielder in serious distress.
There didn’t appear to be anything malicious in the tackle but it was certainly full-blooded and it was confirmed afterwards that the 29-year-old midfielder suffered a broken leg.
Alberto Aquilani replaced him but there was an immediate shift in the balance of the game and it was hard to entirely shake the thought afterwards that nobody else in blue wanted to risk his trip to Brazil.
Whether or not the Italians really did intentionally ease up or not, Ireland were certainly a lot more in the game from that point on and for spells they dominated.
Salvatore Sirigu, indeed, did well to prevent the Irish taking the lead on a few occasions, most notably from a free and then close range shot from Anthony Pilkington, as well as a header from Shane Long that the striker really should have put beyond the goalkeeper's reach.
The Italians moved the ball well and created chances of their own with David Forde required to stop well once from Claudio Marchisio and get off his line quickly on a handful of occasions.
It was open stuff with both sides producing everything bar a decent finish and, that failing aside, Martin O'Neill will have been pleased by plenty of what he saw, especially from Pilkington, Wes Hoolahan and the central midfield partnership of Jeff Hendrick and David Meyler, both of whom coped well.
John O’Shea was outstanding, constantly popping up to make critically important challenges and providing badly needed cover for Pearce on a few occasions, while another of the established stars, Aiden McGeady, was again lively and hard working.
After a good first half, the game kept getting better with Italy bringing on fan favourites like Danielle De Rossi and Antonio Cassano as they sought to up the tempo and secure the win.
They went close a couple of times and had one disallowed for offside when Marco Parolo finished a decent move with a good low angled cross to the far post where Ciro Immobile finished well but only after he had gone fractionally too early.
Only a few minutes earlier, though, Hoolahan had earned Long another clear cut chance to give Ireland the lead when he dispossessed Thiago Motta then set the striker on his way towards the right hand side of the area from where his shot was saved. Stephen Quinn went closer still when he fired a James McClean cross off the underside of the bar before slipping the rebound to McGeady whose follow up effort was saved.
Republic of Ireland: Forde (Millwall); Coleman (Everton), O’Shea (Sunderland), Pearce (Reading), Ward (Wolves); Hendrick (Derby County), Meyler (Hull City); McGeady (Everton), Hoolahan (Norwich City), Pilkington (Norwich); Long (Hull City). McClean (Wigan Athletic) for Pilkington (58 mins), Quinn (Hull City) for Hoolahan (67 mins), Cox (Nottingham Forest) for Long (73 mins), Green (Leeds United) for Meyler (85 mins).
Italy: Sirigu (PSG); Darmian (Torino), Paletta (Parma), Bonucci (Juventus), De Sciglio (Milan); Motta (PSG), Montolivo (Milan), Marchisio (Juventus); Verratti (PSG); Rossi (Fiorentina), Immobile (Torino). Subs: Aquilani (Fiorentina) for Montolivio (16 mins), Parolo (Parma) for Aquilani (38 mins), Cassano (Parma) for Immobile (56 mins), De Rossi (Roma) for Motta (62 mins), Cerci (Torino) for Rossi (71 mins), Abate (Milan) for Darmian (88 mins).
Referee: M Oliver (England).