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June 18, 2012
• 2:45 PM
• INEA stadion, Poznań
Referee: C. Çakιr
• Attendance: 38794
A. Cassano 35'
M. Balotelli 90'
Republic of Ireland
Time for me to wrap up. Thanks for all your contributions tonight, you've been ace. Hope you enjoyed the coverage here on Goal.com, and we'll see you tomorrow night when the quarter final lineup will be completed. Cheerio.
Michal Zachodny describes the scenes on the pitch: "Great scenes on the pitch even as Ireland suffer their third defeat in a row - the team is showing off a banner saying "Thank You, best supporters in the world" to their loyal fans. St Ledger, probably their best player in the tournament, goes straight to Buffon to exchange his shirt with him."
Strong words from Peter, you can hear the hurt there. Ireland definitely improved this evening, but you have to say, over the course of the tournament, they have been by far the worst side here.
Let's have some closing thoughts from Goal.com's Ireland expert, Peter Staunton: "And that's the end of Ireland's Euro 2012 nightmare. It really could not have been any worse. The results have been shambolic and so has been the defending. A really bitter night for Ireland, down to 10 men late on. They've been absolute fodder for every other team in the group. They've conceded nine in three matches and are statistically, the joint-worst team in European Championship history. A low point in the nation's football history. The best thing you could say about Ireland is that they've 'given it a go'. Pathetic, really, that it has to come to such patronising platitudes."
That, my friends, was a superb finale. Just as Italy broke away and sealed the win, they entered perhaps their most precarious period of the match, with Croatia just a goal away from knocking them out. But as it is, the Azzurri are through to the quarter-finals of Euro 2012. They will play the winners of Group D - France, England or Ukraine.
FULL TIME. SPAIN 1-0 CROATIA. ITALY ARE THROUGH. Party time for the Azzurri in Poznan.
FULL TIME. ITALY 2-0 IRELAND. Italy are not celebrating just yet, because if Croatia score, Italy will be OUT. This tournament...
90' + 1'
And what a celebration that is from the Man City man. Just standing there to say, 'Yes, I did that'.
BALOTELLI! ITALY HAVE SEALED IT! Diamanti's corner is whipped in, Barzagli runs across the ball and from nowhere, Mario produces a STUNNING overhead kick that flies past Given. All over here. ITALY 2-0 IRELAND.
RED CARD! Keith Andrews is off for an early bath after reacting angrily to another cheap free kick. No reason to go quite as ballistic as he did, however, and Ireland are down to ten. It's all unravelling for the Boys in Green.
SPAIN 1-0 CROATIA. Jesus Navas for the Spanish. Spain will win the group tonight.
Until, that is, Italy break with numbers. Diamanti plays in Balotelli, but the Man City striker chooses to go it alone and his shot is easily charged down.
Everybody is back inside the Italy half.
Robbie Keane makes way for Ireland, and is replaced by Simon Cox. Just over three minutes remaining.
...Straight into the wall from Diamanti. Then from a Balotelli knock down, Bonucci smashes well over. WEEEYYY once again.
Yellow CardSean St Ledger
Here's a chance for Italy. Balotelli tricks his way to the edge of the box, and is fouled by St Ledger, who is promptly booked. The Azzurri could seal it...
A lovely De Rossi ball forward gets Italy moving forward again, and Diamanti wins a cheap free-kick on half way. Precious seconds.
Here's Goal.com's Mark Doyle: "This is all getting a little too nervy from an Italian perspective. The Azzurri have lost their grip on their game and are starting to get a little frustrated with themselves as a result, which is manifesting itself in niggly fouls and pointless back chat. You also get the impression that the Irish are starting to believe once more that there's something in this for them. The hope must be that Balotelli might finally step up to the mark now that he has been thrown on in place of Di Natale. However, Italy have dropped worryingly deep. This is going to be a long final 10 minutes for Prandelli's men.
Cuneyt Cakir will not be popular for that one. Jonathan Walters wins a perfectly good header but is called for a foul as he does so. Minor relief for Italy.
It's all Ireland here. Shane Long wins a header in the Italian area, and Robbie Keane is just offside as he looks to chase the loose ball. Can Italy hold on here?
SUPER SAVE BUFFON! The ball is rolled to Keith Andrews, who absolutely leathers it, and the Juventus keeper is down very smartly to push the ball away. That was really travelling.
Just 13 minutes remaining here in Poznan. It's still Spain 0-0 Croatia. One goal changes everything, and Walters has just won Ireland a dangerous free-kick...
Here comes Jonathan Walters, replacing Kevin Doyle. The Wolves man can be very proud of his battling performance tonight.
Antonio Di Natale
This will be unpleasant watching if you are an Italy fan. Buffon gets nowhere near the corner and is very lucky to win a free-kick. Ireland are about to bring on another striker.
Here comes that calming influence, Mario Balotelli, in place of Antonio Di Natale.
Yellow CardGianluigi Buffon
Gianluigi Buffon has been booked for some choice comments following that refereeing decision. Few frayed tempers in the Italian camp. Ireland have another corner.
De Rossi heads away, and then goes down apparently injured. The referee eventually stops play as Italy begin to break away. All of a sudden, De Rossi gets up. Funny that.
Yellow CardDaniele De Rossi
And another free-kick, as Damien Duff is brought down by Thiago Motta. Try again...
De Rossi receives a booking for cutting across Kevin Doyle as the Ireland striker looked to break away down the left. Free-kick Ireland...
Here's Mark Doyle on that Chiellini substitution: "Chiellini being forced off after another tangle with Doyle is very worrying. It should not cause too much disruption given his Juventus colleague Bonucci has come on in his place, meaning the Azzurri will still have two Bianconero at the heart of their defence. However, Chiellini did not look at all happy and he ever appeared to suggest he's suffered a serious injury, perhaps a break or a muscle tear. That would be a massive blow for the Azzurri given his importance to the team and his versatility."
...just over the top from the midfield maestro. Another big WEEEEYYY rings out.
Diamanti goes down on the edge of the box and Italy have a very dangerous free-kick...
Ireland win another corner, but Ireland don't challenge for the ball as Duff whips it in. Ireland are getting some good territory here, but no end product at the moment.
A few muted shouts for a handball from that corner, but nothing doing. Italy clear the ball well.
Before the kick comes in, Ireland throw on Shane Long for Aiden McGeady.
Andrea Pirlo slips in possession, and Keith Andrews charges forward. His long-range shot is blocked by a superb tackle from De Rossi. Ireland corner.
In response to that change, Ireland are going to bring on Shane Long...
Here's another change from Italy. Antonio Cassano is coming off, and the former West Ham man Alessandro Diamanti is on in his stead. Big chance for the Bologna attacking midfielder to settle this.
Daniele De Rossi has has a quietly brilliant game in midfield. The Roma man releases Balzaretti with another superb slide-rule pass, and the left-back is pulled back by John O'Shea.
Well that's a nice moment. A neat lay-off from Kevin Doyle finds Keith Andrews, and he is entitled to shoot from 30 yards out. The ball is well hit, but straight down the throat of Buffon. Good to get a shot on target though.
Glenn Whelan tries to create something on the right wing, but there are two Italian bodies there to clear the danger. Ireland are not in this at the moment.
That would have been something. Cassano and Di Natale are turning the defence at will, and the latter's loose touch spins up for Claudio Marchisio, who attempts the spectacular with a volley from 30 yards out. Nowhere near Claudio.
Chiellini is withdrawn, probably as a precaution, and is replaced by Leonardo Bonucci.
Giorgio Chiellini is sitting on the ground after a challenge with Kevin Doyle, and is shaking his head. Would be a major blow if the Juve centre-back has to come off.
That would have been goal of the tournament. Pirlo is playing some lovely triangles in midfield, and from his ball forward, a Thiago Motta back-heel feeds Cassano, who then releases Di Natale to run at goal. Sumptuous one-touch football, and it takes a good block from Given to keep out the eventual shot.
...Richard Dunne wins the header, and directs it downwards towards goal. But in truth, it's well wide, and never troubled Buffon.
Ireland force a corner, after McGeady's cross finds Keane, whose header across goal is blocked by Abate. It only takes a second...
Peter Staunton isn't enjoying this second half too much: "Well Ireland have begun the second half as they finished the first. Ireland being overrun in their own territory by the Italians. Last-gasp blocks are needed to prevent further goals flying past Given. The Italians have flown out of their traps here to place Ireland on the back foot straight away. Will Trapattoni think about changing things around? He needs to find something in the way of control of the central area because Italy are finding passes at their will here."
Perhaps should have been 2-0. Balzaretti is having fun on the left flank now, and beats his man twice before rolling the ball to Cassano on the edge of the box. The no.10 is in acres of room should do better with his side-footed effort, with is easily blocked by Richard Dunne.
Good block by St Ledger as Di Natale meets another cross with a driven shot. The corner is cleared but Italy are still pressing hard.
Almost too cool at the back from Italy. First, Andrea Pirlo dribbles lazily across his own byeline, almost losing the ball before playing it to Abate, who gives it ten seconds of juggling before hacking away an overhead kick. You wouldn't have thought they were defending such a slender lead.
Ireland get us back underway. Across both of tonight's games, the next goal could be so, so crucial.
The teams are on their way back out. Time for the countdown...
Yes, @Iheuwabirinachi, if Croatia score, Spain will be OUT. What a turn up that would be...
Please let either Spain or Croatia score. Would make my life so much easier.
Vijay Mirchandani is the latest to ask about the group standings. Goal difference does not matter here so much people. RESULTS BETWEEN THE TEAMS CONCERNED is what it's all about.
Mohammad Mehrabi promises cake for his entire company if Italy win the group tonight. It's down in writing now. Only question is, where do you work Mohammad?
Interesting to note that Italy had over 73% possession in that first half. It certainly didn't feel that comfortable. But having been in a similar position against Croatia last time out, Prandelli will be warning his players against complacency in the next 45 minutes.
Half time comment from Goal.com's Mark Doyle: "Well, that goal from Cassano (his third in the European Championship overall - an Italy record) was met with a mix of joy and relief by the Azzurri bench. They looked worryingly rattled for well over 20 minutes - none more so than Andrea Pirlo - but they had taken control of the game and begun to look far more threatening when Cassano finally broke the deadlock. Indeed, Di Natale looks very much like he has a goal in him tonight. As things stand, not only are they sitting pretty, they're also sitting on top of the group. However, probably a few more twists and turns to go yet."
Here's Michal Zachodny from inside the Municipal Stadium: "Although the start was an impressive one from the Irish, it was as much down to the poor opening from Italy and especially Andrea Pirlo, who kept his passes safe, rarely opening spaces like we know he can. But it was only about pressing and Trapattoni's side couldn't make anything out of their chances - the result of only one shot off the target is really depressing."
To Ahmed Esmat - please also see the entry below. I promise you it makes sense if you are prepared to read the full Euro 2012 rule book.
Mohandez Ahmed asks why Italy top the group. It's to go with goals scored. With Spain and Croatia drawing 0-0 - Italy are ahead because both of their draws were 1-1. Make sense?
YOU THERE - in the chat box. Can Ireland still spoil Italy's party? Surely Trapattoni still has a trick or two up his sleeve? Keep your comments coming people.
Here's some analysis from Goal.com's Peter Staunton at half-time: "Ireland needed the half time whistle like a boxer needs the bell. They were out on their feet after a fine start but they could not stem the flow of blue. In the last 10 minutes, the Italians roused themselves and showed their championship credentials. Ireland have not had a sniff. They have barely been over the half-way line since the half-hour mark. "
The whistle is blown, and Ireland have some re-grouping to do. After a really spirited showing for much of that half, the Azzurri's class told, and Trapattoni's side go in behind to Antonio Cassano's header. Italy, as it stands, will be winners of Group C.
Half time is approaching, and Italy are all over this game suddenly. Ireland look to have been shell-shocked from that Italy goal.
And a much happier Mark Doyle: "Massive breakthrough for Italy, and it had been coming. That it came courtesy of a header from Cassano was surprising but the identity of the scorer was not, because both he and Di Natale had suddenly come to life. That should hopefully settle Italy's nerves now after what was a very uncomfortable opening half an hour in which the Irish did a great job of suffocating them."
Goal.com's Peter Staunton on that Italy goal: "Ireland's composure deserts them just after the half-hour mark and now they find themselves playing catch-up again. Another set-piece concession for Trapattoni's team to endure. Sean St Ledger's back pass, which was played short, let in Di Natale for a chance which was cleared from the line. The next calamity came from Shay Given, who shovelled a Cassano drive behind for a corner. Then, Cassano rises highest past Andrews for the Italians' lead. It's been a cursed spell for Ireland over the past five minutes with individual errors again blighting their play. Camped in Ireland's half now, Italy look well on top."
So Italy are rewarded for a more positive spell in this match. As things stand, Prandelli's side will win the group with Spain and Croatia drawing 0-0. It all makes sense really. Just trust me.
Yellow CardJohn O'Shea
John O'Shea jumps with Balzaretti, and the Italy left-back is suddenly nursing a cut lip. Booking for the former Man United player.
...off the edge of the wall, and away.
Yellow CardKeith Andrews
And now Pirlo has a free-kick 35 yards out...
GOOOAAAL ITALY! Pirlo swings over a corner, and Cassano gets ahead of his marker Keith Andrews to head at goal. The ball is through Given's hands before he knows anything about it, and the ball JUST crosses the line before it is cleared away by Duff. ITALY 1-0 IRELAND.
OFF THE LINE. After a loose ball from St Ledger, Given comes way off his line and is beaten to it by Di Natale. From a tight angle, the striker swings the ball towards goal and Richard Dunne makes a SUPERB clearance. Ireland escape.
Di Natale appears to have woken up, and a genius turn almost takes him between two Ireland defenders. Sean St Ledger is alert to danger though, and slams the ball away. Good reading of the game from the Leicester City man.
That was Italy's biggest chance by a MILE. Balzaretti escapes McGeady and pulls the ball back to Di Natale, who turns to shoot from 10 yards. His shot hits St Ledger JUST on the edge of his chest, but NOT his arm. Italian penalty appeals are waved away, and rightly so.
Here's Goal.com's Mark Doyle: "This has not been an encouraging start for the Azzurri. The Irish have clearly targeted Pirlo, who is central to everything that Italy do from an attacking perspective, and they are reaping the benefits. There is absolutely no rhythm or fluency to the Italian game and they are also looking very vulnerable to the counterattack. Italy not exactly holding on at the minute but they are struggling to impose themselves on this game. Their over-reliance on Pirlo's playmaking is being seriously shown up."
POZNAN O'CLOCK. The Irish fans are a sea of jumping green shirts. You can't beat this lot.
Yellow CardFederico Balzaretti
Balzaretti gets done by Aiden McGeady. Again. Only this time, he pulls at the winger's shorts after falling over, and rightly earns the first booking of the evening.
Here's Peter Staunton on this improved Irish performance: "Ireland showing a composure that was conspicuous by its absence in the first two matches here against Italy. They are competing for the ball high in the Italian half and tracking back when Pirlo tries to make the play. Italy are not going to be handed the three points that could take them through on a plate here. Ireland up for his and expressing themselves."
Sean St Ledger goes for it.... and commits a foul in jumping for the ball. Free-kick Italy.
Damien Duff takes on THREE men with his latest dribble, and is tripped to win a very dangerous free-kick...
I've also decided something about Italy. The ball is not sticking up front, and there is only one man who can offer that in the squad. I won't tell you who it is, but he plays for Man City and he's sitting on the bench.
Andrea Pirlo has lost the ball again, and it nearly leads to an Irish counter-attack. After John O'Shea nicks the ball away, four white shirts streak away towards goal, and only a very timely intervention by Balzaretti concedes a corner. Italy living on the edge.
OOOHH. McGeady swings a great cross in from the right, and it looks for all the world like Doyle is going to get his head to it. The ball drops just over the head of the Irish forward, who was being well marshaled by Barzagli. Sighs of Italian relief all round.
So people, at what point should Italians become really very nervous? Plenty of time left, but no sign of a clear chance for the Azzurri yet...
Allow me to introduce Goal.com's Italy expert, Mark Doyle: "Well, if Italy had any hopes about the already-eliminated Irish not being up for this, they've been well and truly dashed after 20 frenetic opening minutes. Ireland looking incredibly motivated and committed, not giving Italy any time on the ball. Even Andrea Pirlo looks rattled, having given the ball away three times in the first six minutes. On the plus side, the movement of the two Antonios, Cassano and Di Natale, is already causing the Irish defence problems."
The corner is played short and Balzaretti puts his foot through it from 30 yards. The ball sails miles high and wide of the goal, and is met with a massive WEEEYYYY from the crowd. As well it should be.
Cassano slips after taking down a pass from De Rossi, and Stephen Ward clears for another corner...
Here's Goal.com's Peter Staunton: "Ireland get through their nervy period. They had conceded in the fourth minute of each half of football they've played here at the European Championship. But not tonight. They've settled well and put the Italians under a little bit of pressure. Ireland playing fresh football. Very up tempo from Ireland's key components and the Italians are on the back foot."
Cassano's cross is cleared only as far as Andrea Pirlo, but a superb tackle from Kevin Doyle stops the Italian 'pivote' from getting a shot away. Pirlo stays down and, eventually, the Irish are forced to put the ball out. Boos all round.
It's like a total green and white transformation. The Irish are knocking it about at the back, keeping plenty of possession, and Keith Andrews has just pinged a superb 40 yard ball that drops straight onto the chest of John O'Shea. WHAT IS GOING ON.
So all it took was Ireland to be knocked out of the tournament to start playing like a team. Who knew.
Italy are starting to creep back into the game, and Antonio Cassano is beginning to cause problems on the flanks. The no.10's clipped cross is headed away by Richard Dunne but, again, Ireland clear the corner with relative ease.
Lovely ball by Cassano to release De Rossi, but the Roma man sees his cross cleared behind for a corner. Ireland stand up well to the kick however. This is more like the defence we have come to expect of the Boys in Green.
Thiago Motta is a slip away from getting a shot at goal, as the ball drops to him from a Pirlo corner. His left foot betrays him though, and Ireland can clear.
Kevin Doyle makes a good break into the area and is muscled off the ball by Barzagli. The no.9 wants a corner, but he isn't gonna get it.
So, everyone still confident Italy are going to go through? Not sure I am...
On the other hand, it's a much better performance already by Ireland. Aiden McGeady makes what I think is his first dangerous run of the tournament so far, before being stopped by Abate.
Damien Duff has won a free-kick on the right hand side, after being brought down by the pony-tailed Balzaretti. Italy make a mess of the clearance, and the ball bobbles around in the area before being hacked clear. Such a poor start from the Italians.
Let's remember one thing. Ireland have conceded within 4 minutes of their first two fixtures at Euro 2012. There is certainly a lot more zip about them here though, and Italy are nowhere near settling.
WHAT ON EARTH WAS THAT. Pirlo makes an absolute mess of a simple pass from the kick-off, allowing Robbie Keane to run through on goal. Italy are already thankful to their 4-man defence for keeping the striker at bay.
Beautifully sung anthems all round. Now time for the part of Euro2012 we all love most. The stadium announcer counting down to kick-off.
Here's hoping it fills up, Michal.
Here's Michal Zachodny from inside the stadium: "Well, the ground is two thirds full at best. Some suggested that protesters stopped crowds traveling to the ground but a) I haven't seen any problems on my way here, b) no media mention any such problems. I really hope that fans have left it late to arrive in their seats... if not, this is going to be the poorest attendance at Euro 2012 so far."
ITALY ANTHEM - ‘Il Canto degli Italiani’ (The Song of the Italians)
IRELAND ANTHEM - ‘Amhran na bhFiann’ (A Soldier's Song)
Ireland will be in their changed white strip tonight, with Italy in azure blue. The players are lining up for the national anthems.
The teams are on their way out. For the first time in Ireland’s Euro 2012 tournament, it isn’t raining. Small mercies. Keeping order tonight will be tonight’s referee, Cuneyt Cakir from Turkey.
I, for one, am really hoping there are no draws tonight.
But what if Spain and Croatia do draw? That would leave three teams on five points, so things would start to get complicated. In this scenario, the crucial factor would be the GOALS SCORED in matches between the three teams. So if Spain and Croatia were to draw 2-2, it would effectively better the 1-1 that Italy managed against these teams, and put Prandelli’s side out.
OK, so these are the permutations. Italy MUST WIN here to stand any chance of making the quarter-finals. That is all the Azzurri need to think about. Get the three points, and providing the match between Spain and Croatia DOES NOT END IN A DRAW, Italy will be through.
In the stadium for us tonight is Michal Zachodny. Here's his take on the two teams as they warm up: "Giovanni Trapattoni said he would never want to have Italy as Ireland's group rivals but his main aim now is to stop them. Will he succeed? After the Italians have long finished their warm up, the Irish are still practicing their shooting, while Richard Dunne is sending long passes. Both squads are old, and no one seems to notice this - the youngest on the pitch is Ignazio Abate, 26 years old this November."
IRELAND (4-4-2): Given; O’Shea, St Ledger, Dunne, Ward; McGeady, Whelan, Andrews, Duff; Doyle, Keane
ITALY (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Abate, Barzagli, Chiellini, Balzaretti; De Rossi, Pirlo, Marchisio; Thiago Motta; Cassano, Di Natale
Ireland’s team, which was announced yesterday, shows Trapattoni is reverting to the eleven players that rolled over 3-1 to Croatia on matchday one. Striker Kevin Doyle, perhaps unfairly dropped for the 4-0 defeat to Spain, is back in attack with West Brom’s Simon Cox dropping to the bench. Out on the left-wing, Damien Duff picks up his 100th international cap tonight, and will mark the occasion by being given the captain’s armband. Another centurion, Shay Given, who has indicated he may retire from international football after this tournament, continues in goal. The old guard are out in force, make no mistake.
Here’s your TEAM NEWS for tonight’s match. Cesare Prandelli hinted there would be changes in his side, and changes he has made. Perhaps most importantly, there are three changes in defence as the coach returns to his familiar 4-3-1-2 formation. Juventus defender Andrea Barzagli is back from a thigh injury, meaning Daniele De Rossi is relieved of his centre-back duties and moves into midfield. Ignazio Abate and Federico Balzaretti come in at right and left-back respectively, and up front, Mario Balotelli is replaced by Antonio Di Natale. Just behind the front two, the trequartista role will be occupied by Thiago Motta.
So how will Cesare Prandelli’s Nazionale, with its expressive, attacking formation, fare against this ‘old-school Italian’ approach? Keep those comments coming in to our chat box. I note NONE of you predict an Italy exit tonight. Bold predictions people.
One man you fancy will be looking to prove a point tonight is Giovanni Trapattoni. The 73 year-old coached Italy, with limited success, during the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004. Along with his assistant Marco Tardelli (he of THAT 1982 World Cup goal celebration), he has re-built this Ireland side in the ‘catenaccio’ style of many a famous Italian side. With some success too – Trapattoni has an unbeaten record against the country of his birth, his Irish side having drawn two and won one of three encounters between the sides.
Another incentive, perhaps, for the Irish to give their fans something to remember here.
Joining me in the commentary tonight is Goal.com's Ireland expert, Peter Staunton. Here's his first contribution of the evening: "Tonight Ireland will wear black armbands to mark the 18th anniversary of the Loughinisland Masscare. On June 18, 1994, six Catholics were killed by loyalist paramilitaries in a bar in the Co Down village of Loughinisland. Those present had been watching the Republic of Ireland play in a World Cup match against Italy at USA 94."
But even if they don’t manage it, their fans will still sing the whole night through. You couldn’t spoil these fans’ party through something as trivial as a game of football.
For those of you wondering – the goal I was just describing was Ray Houghton’s winner against Italy in the 1994 World Cup. Exactly 18 years ago today. A famous result for any fan of the Boys in Green, and should history repeat itself, the Azzurri will be out of Euro 2012. Having been the first team to be knocked out of this tournament, following two pretty dire performances, the Irish could probably use the boost that such a result would give.
I’m Tom Woods, and I’ll be bringing you play-by-play updates from the Municipal Stadium in Poznan as Group C draws to a close. With three teams separated by just two points, this one is going right to the wire. Who are you backing? Pop your comments in to our chat box – over on the right of this screen – and get the debate started.
If this were a TV programme, that’s the clip you would have just watched. Welcome to Goal.com - and our LIVE match coverage of Italy’s all-important Euro 2012 clash with Ireland. Two teams with plenty of history between them, and lots of modern day ties to make this incredibly interesting.
“Sheridan’s ball forward. Baresi heads it out, picked up by Houghton. Houghton looks up – he’s going to try to chip Pagliuca… OH WHAT A GOAL! Ray Houghton! Ireland have taken the lead here in Giants Stadium, and Italy are stunned!”
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