Not much to play for in the final round of group B qualifiers: the Azzurri obtained a relatively easy 3-1 victory against Faroe Islands and concluded their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign ranked at nº1 spot behind France (who tied 2-2 away to the Ukraine). The first half saw a complete territorial domination by the home team, who found the way of the net through Benjaminsen (o.g.), Luca Toni and a jewel 30m shot by Giorgio Chiellini. Then in the second period Faroe Islands got their moment of glory with a goal by Jacobsen.
For this match, as one could have expected, Roberto Donadoni chose to give his usual starters a rest: Buffon, Barzagli, Zambrotta, Pirlo, Di Natale, Camoranesi weren’t even on the team sheet, and out of the heroes of Glasgow Saturday only Massimo Ambrosini, Luca Toni and Fabio Cannavaro (earning his 113th cap for Italy, and thus overtaking legend Dino Zoff) were present. The Italian coach even modified his usual line-up just a tiny little, and proposed an offensive 4-2-3-1 formation with 3 attacking mids replacing the usual 2 wingers. In that role today we found Vincenzo Iaquinta (right), Simone Perrotta (center), Raffaele Palladino (left) ready to support the lone striker Luca Toni. Behind them, interdiction tasks were left to Ambrosini and De Rossi, while the defensive backline was made up of Oddo, Cannavaro, Chiellini, and Grosso. Replacing Buffon in goal: Livorno keeper Marco Amelia.
Not surprisingly, most of the plays in the first half took place on the Faroe Islands’ side of the field. The constant movement of Oddo and Grosso (overlapping on the wings) and sending high balls for skyscraper Luca Toni, created many dangerous situations in favor of the home team, who unfortunately lacked a bit in accuracy (and perhaps also, expectedly, in motivation) when it came to the finish. In addition, the Faroese were relying on their strong physical presence to contain the Azzurri offensives, and the fact they had almost always 9 men at the back didn’t help the Italians a whole lot.
Eventually however, Italy found a breach and exploited it 10 minutes into the game. Exchanging passes on the edge of the box with De Rossi, Oddo went deep down to the right before crossing a low ball into the center. The pass found the foot of Faroese defender Bejaminsen, who fooled his own keeper in trying to clear the ball and sent it into his own net. 1-0 Italy.
The Azzurri continued to push forward: the tight defensive wall in front of them sometimes exhibited all its limitations by crumbling when confronted with superior technique, such as on the dribbling challenges of young Raffaele Palladino (very able in winning his one-on-one duels and sending the ball in for the cross). The Juve striker almost christened his first Italy cap with a goal in the 24th, but the Faroese keeper Mikkelsen parried away, just like he did 10 minutes earlier on angled header by Toni. The Bayern giant got a chance too many however and didn’t fail his second attempt on the 36th, controlling a cross from the left with a great flick, and finding the twine with a rotating half-volley. 2-0 Italy.
Before the break, Italy capped a nicely played half with a wonder goal by Giorgio Chiellini: advancing through to the edge of the box from his defensive position, the Juve center-back let a 25-30m diagonal shot rip right into the top corner! What a way to find your first international goal! 3-0 Italy.
In the 2nd half, the Azzurri’s playing style considerably dropped in intensity (not that it was very high to begin with). Donadoni subbed Cannavaro with Daniele Bonera and Ambrosini with Fabio Quagliarella, changing his formation to a sort of very offensive 4-2-4 line-up which, paradoxically, stung very little on the Faroese defense. In fact, the visitors would be those earning the lone goal of the half through Jacobsen, exploiting a cross from the right and sending a looping header over Marco Amelia. Not bad for a team which in 2 games managed to score 2 goals on the World Champions, and got very close to the 3rd had it not been for the post getting in the way. In the end though, considering the Azzurri had achieved their Euro 2008 goal and were already celebrating with the Modena fans, it’s something we are ready to forgive.
|GOALSCORERS: 10’ Benjaminsen o.g. (I), 36’ Toni (I), 41’ Chiellini (I), 83’ R.Jacobsen (F)|
|ITALY (4-2-3-1): Amelia – Oddo, F.Cannavaro (53’ Bonera), Chiellini, Grosso – De Rossi, Ambrosini (59’ Quagliarella) – Iaquinta, Perrotta, Palladino – Toni (75’ Gilardino). (bench: Curci, Panucci, Gattuso, C.Lucarelli). Coach. Donadoni.|
|FAROE ISLANDS (4-4-2): Mikkelsen – Davidsen, Jr.Jacobsen, Benjaminsen, E.Hansen – Samuelsen (75’ Thorleifsson), Olsen, Danielsen, C.Jacobsen – R.Jacobsen, Holst (87’ Flotum). (bench: Torgard, P.Hansen, Elttor, O.Hanssen, T.Hanssen). Coach: M.Olsen.|