Italy 2-2 Austria: Did Anyone Say “Friendly Match”?

Don’t let the above picture fool you. Despite the “friendly” intentions of Austria’s nº16 on Gennaro Gattuso (sorry, couldn’t resist…), Italy vs. Austria seemed, at times, anything but friendly. In fact as soon as they were up by two goals, the Austrians thought this could very well be exploit-day for them. Fortunately for the Azzurri, the Austrian reserve keeper had other plans…

In all seriousness though, this was not a very good come-back for Marcello Lippi. Relatively speaking, it was better than his first debut match (which had ended with a 2-0 loss to Iceland, back in 2004), but that in itself is no excuse to dismiss Wednesday night’s poor performance. Against the Austrians the Azzurri lacked a bit of cynicism close to goal, were a bit unattentive in defense, and also suffered a little bit from bad luck. All these “bits” added up in the end, materializing in two avoidable goals and a 0-2 half-time deficit. Well… 1-2 actually, with Gilardino’s “shot” marking the stoppage time of the first half.

In the second half, Italy’s “fighting spirit” and “determination” rose above the rest, and the Azzurri played somewhat better. It’s ironic then, that the equalizing goal came through yet another “gift” from the Austrian defence, specifically their keeper who punched the ball into his own net (insert comic trombone music). In Italy’s defense: this was an August friendly, the players’ form & fitness is still far from optimal. Not a match to make Azzurri history this one though, that’s for sure…

Oh and by the way: you can’t see it but right after the above picture was taken, Gattuso made a two-footed tackle sending nº16 flying. Seriously Austrian dude… what were you thinking? It’s Ringhio for God’s sake!

(From Gazzetta): NICE (France) - The first match of Lippi’s second coming was better than his first. Italy overcame a two-goal deficit to end up drawing 2-2 against Austria: a modest score but certainly better than the 0-2 loss in Iceland (Lippi’s very first debut as Azzurri coach). Besides, didn’t that loss in 2004 open up a new cycle of victories, which ended up as we all know two years later?

Anyways, not much more to say about Wednesday night’s friendly match in Nice. Worth the mention: the Italian fighting spirit (the Azzurri knew how to turn the tables in an evening that didn’t begin well) and Aquilani’s performance (a big factor in the team’s improvement in the 2nd half). The three men in up front however, played poorly. There was not a lot of strength in midfield, with some synchronism problems worth reviewing, and Del Piero proved not to be very efficient on the wing (but what else is new?). Much better was his performance as a trequartista, when Italy switched to a diamond formation.

FALSE START – Italy’s first half was, to put it plainly, not good. The Italian side started well, obtaining a couple of chances through Zambrotta (good save by Manninger on a left-footed long-ranger) and Gilardino (header too soft & too central) . In minute 14 the match turned on its head, as Austria opened the score on their first visit close to Buffon’s net: Emanuel Pogatetz was quicker than Zambrotta as he anticipated a cross, slamming the ball under the crossbar with a powerful half-volley. 1-0 Austria. The 15,000 fans who had gathered in the stadium (in large majority pro-Italy) fell silent. The Azzurri tried to reply shortly after, with an almost knee-jerk reaction by Gilardino who got through on goal, but Manninger came out and took control of the situation.

IMPASSE – Italy were still in a fix, especially because they couldn’t hold their own in attack: too long on the passes and with too much space between strikers and midfield. The only real danger came through the wing runs by Zambrotta and Grosso, which made Austria feel incredulous at first but then gradually more confident as they got their counterattacks organized. And on their second shot of the game, Brückner’s men scored again: Marc Janko may have had a bit of help from Barzagli, but what was most worrisome was the general laxism of Italy’s defense on the play. 2-0 Austria.

GILA TIME – At this point, seeing the “tridente” wasn’t working Lippi tried to use Del Piero as a second striker. This in turn re-shuffled Di Natale on the left wing, which gave its desired results in the last minute of stoppage time: through on goal, the Udinese forward crossed the ball to Gilardino, who with a bit of help from Stranzl (the Austrian defender actually cleared the ball onto him) put Italy back in it. 2-1. Certainly not standing ovation-worthy, but a critical goal nonetheless.

DRAW- The second half permitted a few changes in Italy’s ranks (Legrottaglie, Dossena, Aquilani, and Perrotta for Bonera, Grosso, Pirlo, and Gattuso), who then reverted to a diamond formation: De Rossi in front of the defence, Aquilani and Perrotta on the sides, Del Piero behind the strikers. It seemed to work fairly well: the Juventus captain immediately a good chance in front of Manninger, but missed his chipped shot by a hairbreadth (picture the same chance he got in the 2006 semi-final, but wide).

Italy grew stronger, more compact and orderly, and eventually managed to tie the game. It was an unfortunate attempt by the backup goalkeeper Ozcan, who anticipated an aerial pass to Del Piero but whose punching clearance ended up into his own net. A goal which in Italy, one typically calls a “gollonzo”. 2-2.

The match was still open. Aquilani, very energetic, revitalised and displayed quality in the Italian side. In return, Maierhofer tried to counter for the Austrians. Our response to their attack included failed attempts by Legrottaglie (headed corner well-saved by Ozcan) and Di Natale. Based on their performance tonight though, a 3-2 victory would have been a bit much for the Azzurri…


 Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio ITALY-AUSTRIA
[Match Highlights]
Österreichischer Fußball-Bund (Austrian Football Association)
GOALSCORERS: 14’ Pogatetz (A), 39’ Janko (A), 45’ Gilardino (I), 67’ o.g. Oczan (I)
ITALY (4-3-3): Buffon – Zambrotta (70’ Cassetti), Bonera (46’ Legrottaglie), Barzagli, Grosso (46’ Dossena) – De Rossi, Pirlo (46’ Aquilani), Gattuso (45’ Perrotta) – Di Natale, Gilardino, Del Piero (74’ Palombo). (bench: Amelia, Camoranesi, Iaquinta). Coach: Lippi.
AUSTRIA (4-1-4-1): Manninger (46’ Oczan) – Garics, Prodl, Stranzl, Pogatetz (58’ Leitgeb) – Scharner (46’ Gercaliu) – Harnik (72’ Hoffer), Saumel, Ivanschitz (86’ Linz), Fuchs – Janko (65’ Maierhofer). (bench: Standfest, Klenast). Coach: Bruckner.


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