Italy happy with 1-0 loss that sees Irish friends qualify

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Irish and Italian fans celebrated together following Italy's 1-0 defeat on Wednesday evening. Photo: Screenshot/YouTube
10:51 CEST+02:00
The Italian team almost seemed delighted after Robbie Brady's 90-minute strike put the Republic of Ireland through to the last 16 of Euro 2016 on Wednesday night.

Following the final whistle, Italy's veteran stopper Gianluigi Buffon – who watch the game from the benches after being rested in favour of PSG stopper Salvatore Sirigu – ran onto the pitch to celebrate with the Irish and congratulated their manager Martin O'Neill by grabbing him in a warm embrace.

It wasn't just Buffon who was pleased for the Irish.

Italy manager Antonio Conte said in a post-match interview that the Irish team had “played the game of their lives.”

"I have to congratulate them because they put a lot into the game. They went for it. Congratulations to the Republic of Ireland, because they really wanted to go through and they were rewarded for that," he said.

But the goodwill wasn't a one-way street.

Irish fans have so far acquitted themselves impeccably during Euro 2016, drawing plaudits from lovers of the beautiful game for their sportsmanship, camaraderie and famous sense of humour.

Plenty of that was on show on Wednesday evening, as fans of the two teams spent the buildup to the game peacefully together in Lille.

Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP

The scenes were a far cry from those witnessed earlier this month when England and Russia fans were involved in bloody battles which saw the streets of Marseilles filled with broken glass and tear gas.

One video taken at the stadium, even shows the Irish applauding the Italian national anthem.

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The Republic of Ireland is a country which continues to fascinate Italians. In 2015 some 321,000 of Ireland's 8.6 million global visitors were from Italy. There are currently 8,600 Italians living in the Republic.

In spite of defeat, Italy still topped group E and will face holders Spain in the last 16. 

Ireland will also face tough opposition in the form of hosts France. 

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