It was certainly a game of two halves as the old sports cliche goes at Croke Park Saturday as Ireland drew 2-2 with Italy in the crunch World Cup qualifier.

Ireland came so close to pulling off a stunning victory against Italy that it hurts even to type these words.

For those of you who didn't see the game, we were 2-1 up at 87 minutes thanks to a diving header from 24-year-old Middlesborough defender Sean St Ledger.

And then it all went horribly wrong as the Italians regrouped and went charging towards the goal.

Gilardino found the net and it was 2-2 for the game.


Ireland went 1-0 ahead after eight minutes after a foul on Robbie Keane.

Croke Park erupted after Steve Lawrence took the free kick, passed it to Gary Whelan who found the net.

Italy drew level at 26 minutes after Camoranesi headed in a goal from a corner kick.

Ireland defied the doomsayers and played out of their skins in a nailbiting game which saw Ireland hold the World Champions to a draw.

New boy Sean St Ledger capped a whirlwind week with a diving header in the closing minutes of the game.

It could have been enough. It should have been enough but just minutes later Italy found through the net through Gilardino at 90 minutes.

However, the hard-fought point is enough for Ireland to qualify for the World Cup playoffs after Cyprus defeated the favorites Bulgaria today.