Former Chelsea and England midfielder Ray Wilkins believes Italy can maintain their Euro 2012 challenge and surprise Spain and Germany in the tournament's latter stages.

Cesare Prandelli's side must win against the Republic of Ireland and hope Spain and Croatia do not draw 202 (or higher score draw) to progress from Group C on Monday night.

And Wilkins, who played under former England manager Fabio Capello at AC Milan 21 years ago, insists Italy have the experience to spring a surprise over Europe's established order.

"The philosophy is not to concede initially and then if they can go and score they will," Wilkins told Yahoo! Sport. "They've always been extremely talented and the Italians have enjoyed defending, as crazy as it sounds they are probably the only national side who still enjoy doing so.

"I think you will see them defend with a lot of players behind the ball and a bit of quality; if you look at the Juventus squad they've been exceptional this season and seven of their players will be in the squad.

"They've got experience in their midfield with players such as Pirlo and De Rossi as well as some younger players so I think the Italians will be a bit of a surprise."

Prandelli has described the game with Ireland in Poznan as the biggest of his coaching career, as Italy approach the game knowing that events elsewhere may take qualification out of their hands.

"This is the most important game I have been in charge of, absolutely," the Italy coach said.

"If it only depended on what we do in the 90 minutes I would be very happy with my squad, our fitness and our preparation, but of course a lot has been said about the other game that I am not too happy about. I think we are in danger of getting ahead of ourselves, and if you do that you slip up.

"Three days ago I said it all depends on ourselves and I still hold that view. I am solely focused on the result against Ireland, nothing else. I don't think we should be talking about what might happen in the other match; let's just win our game first and then see where we stand. After all this talking I just want to get on with it."

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