Italy 1-1 Ireland: Bad Reffing and Robbie Keane Hamper Azzurri’s Plans (World Cup 2010 Qualifiers)

Italy's Giampaolo Pazzini leaves the pitch after receiving a red card as Ireland's coach Giovanni Trapattoni looks during their 2010 World Cup qualifying soccer match at the San San Nicola stadium in Bari April 1, 2009. (REUTERS)

Admit it people. At the first sight of Giampaolo Pazzini’s 3rd minute red card, most of you immediately connected your minds to World Cup 2006. That bloody (litterally) game vs. USA, where Brian McBride was the unfortunate recipient of Daniele De Rossi’s elbow fury. After that incident DDR apologized for his behaviour, immensely regretting that moment of craziness which nearly terminated his World Cup adventure right then and there.

In this case however, Pazzini has absolutely nothing to apologize for. He went for a high ball, extended his arm to balance himself, and accidentally hit John O’Shea in the temple -a very sensitive area with high capillary concentration. Translated: lots of blood flow in that region, the same blood which induced German referee Wolfgang Stark to take out the red card of his pocket and unjustifiably upset 87 minutes of World Cup qualifying football. In the words of Marcello Lippi: “We’re always complaining about referees in Serie A, but look at the foreign ones. We were down to 10 men for 90 minutes because of an interpretation of violence that we can all judge with our own eyes.

After such an early incident, it almost makes the match retelling trivial by comparison. Italy could have easily panicked, folded under the pressure, given in psychologically. They did not. They held their heads high, fought back, and even scored the first goal through Vincenzo Iaquinta. A victory was the right compensation for Pazzini’s injustice. Buffon & the Italian fort held on. Until the 88th minute, when Ireland‘s Robbie Keane decided to spoil the party.

FIFA World Cup 2010 Qualifiers - Italy vs. Ireland

FIFA World Cup 2010 Qualifiers - Italy 1-1 Ireland

As previously stated, everything changed after 3 minutes of play: Pazzini went for an aerial challenge, his arm hit Man Utd defender O’Shea in the face, blood poured out. It wasn’t a rough foul, and it certainly wasn’t intentional. Pazzini, at his first international match as a starter, still saw red.

Italy regrouped into an emergency 4-2-2-1, with Pirlo and De Rossi as defensive midfielders and Pepe and Brighi as outside “wingers” supporting lone striker Vincenzo Iaquinta. In the 11th minute, cries of outrage turned to joy as the Juventus man opened the score: Pirlo scooped it for Grosso on the left, the Lyon man went deep and crossed to Iaquinta 5 yards in front of the net. Easy tap-in and 1-0 Italia, also the striker’s second goal for the Azzurri after his famous first one against Ghana in Germany.

Italy's Vincenzo Iaquinta, right, Simone Pepe, n. 7, and other teammates celebrate after scoring, during the World Cup group 8 qualifying soccer match between Italy and Ireland, at the Bari stadium, Italy, Wednesday, April 1, 2009. (AP Photo)

Minutes later, Italy almost made it two: Grosso (a constant threat on the wing for the Irish defense) tried it again from the left, a cross that wasn’t deflected by Given and eventually landed to Pepe, who sent a good chance wide of the post. Then, the match turned into a defensive battle as Italy held the fort. Ireland were strong in attack because Trapattoni had added a third striker to maximise their numerical superiority, but other than a great pace and an endless stream of corner kicks, the boys in green couldn’t materialise a goal, thanks in part to Chiellini and Cannavaro’s perfect timing in defence. In fact, the most dangerous player in the Irish squad was Stephen Hunt, whose long-range effort from 30 yards would have made a nice bed-time story for his grandchildren. Buffon kept guard with a spectacular one-handed save.

The rain started to pour. Pouring was also the applause from the San Nicola crowd at half-time: Italy were one man down and one goal up.

Lippi’s lads returned to the pitch with Angelo Palombo for Pirlo: less technique, more muscle. Pepe and Brighi swapped sides, the Udinese winger eventually leaving his place to Andrea Dossena: a pair of “Trapattoni-style” substitutions, as Gazzetta would call them. Speaking of Trap, the Irish boss placed Hunt on the right (to hold Grosso’s progress on the wing) but not without giving him freedom to roam forward himself. In fact, when the Reading midfielder was brought down inside the box by Buffon, Italy could consider themselves lucky: a penalty wouldn’t have been scandalous. It probably made up for Pazzini’s ridiculous red card.

Giovanni Trapattoni, Ireland coach

The match carried on at a slower pace, with the Italian side suffering in part from the consequences of numerical inferiority and unable to do more, and Ireland attacking to their hearts’ content but without achieving anything other than a collection of rugby-like scrums. As usual, Buffon was instrumental in keeping the score unchanged by parrying Kilbane left-footed diagonal effort.

It looked like a done deal…until minute 88, when former Inter Milan player Robbie Keane (who had been invisible up until then) picked up a Folan-redirected long-ball from Shay Given, and scored the equaliser inside the right post. 1-1. A great result for the guests, one putting them 2 points behind the Azzurri, who still remain top of the group with 13 points. Also a “fair” result for Ireland assistant coach Marco Tardelli.

Sorry Marco, but I beg to differ.

Ireland's Robbie Keane celebrates after scoring against Italy during their 2010 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Bari April 1, 2009. (REUTERS)


 Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio
[Match Highlights]
Football Association of Ireland
GOALSCORERS: 11’ Iaquinta (I), 88’ Rob.Keane (I).
ITALY (4-2-1-3): Buffon – Zambrotta, F.Cannavaro, Chiellini, Grosso – De Rossi, Brighi – Pirlo (46’ Palombo) – Pepe (54’ Dossena), Pazzini, Iaquinta (90’ Quagliarella). (bench: Amelia, Gamberini, Motta, G.Rossi). Coach: Lippi.
IRELAND (4-4-2): Given – McShane, O’Shea, Dunne, Kilbane – Keogh (22′ Folan), Whelan, Andrews (53’ Gibson), Hunt – Doyle (63’ N.Hunt), Rob.Keane. (bench: Kiely, Foley, Kelly, Miller). Coach: Trapattoni.


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Posted in Azzurri, World Cup 2010 |

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  • 2 Responses to “Italy 1-1 Ireland: Bad Reffing and Robbie Keane Hamper Azzurri’s Plans (World Cup 2010 Qualifiers)”

    1. Jim says:

      I thought it was a fair result. Italy, although losing a man early were at home and playing against a team with very little quality in midfield and two rubbish fullbacks. They even went 1-0 up but chose to defend a slender lead against a technically inferior team. Ireland aren’t Barcelona or Manchester United you know and taking Pirlo off was a massive mistake. Cannavaro should have got two yellows as well for fouls in the second half.

    2. We can’t really fault Lippi for removing Pirlo Jim. Pirlo hardly does any defending work, and certainly less than Palombo. With one man down, that was the right thing to do, because even though they were not too technical, Ireland still managed to keep us in our defensive third for much of the second half.

      As for Cannavaro, don’t remember those fouls. Personally, I thought the red card he deserved against Montenegro was much more obvious.