Italy crush Scotland’s hopes: 91st min. Goal by Panucci sends the Azzurri through to Euro 2008

La Gazzetta dello Sport online: the headline reads “Scotland beaten, Azzurri to Euro 2008!”

“Come on” Italia, Euro 2008 is served!!!! After a match of incredible suffering the Azzurri managed to beat a valiant Scottish team at Hampden Park, and earned a well-deserved qualification to the European championships. After a first half of masterful display (rewarded by the very early goal of Luca Toni), the Italians had their breath cut out by the Scots’ physical strength (and Barry Ferguson’s tally) in the second. However in the last quarter of the game (following an excellent scoring chance for either side) the Azzurri stuck their knife into the Scottish hearts when Christian Panucci placed his header past Craig Gordon in stoppage time, sending Italy through to Austria/Switzerland.

Euro 2008: Scotland 1-2 Italy

68 seconds into the game: Luca Toni has just put Italy ahead68 seconds: that’s how long it took the Azzurri to send a clear message to the 52,000 Scottish fans of Hampden Park. Alex McLeish’s men knew this match wasn’t going to be easy, but they probably weren’t expecting Gianluca Zambrotta to take a fast throw for Antonio Di Natale, and the latter to send a low cross for Luca Toni that the Bayern striker flicked right into the top corner, all this before the first 2 minutes of play had even passed. 1-0 Italy.

The Azzurri could even have doubled the lead just a minute later, when Toni got through on the left and centered for Mauro Camoranesi, whose instep finish from 12 yards missed the crossbar by inches. Clearly, this was a start to the match beyond Donadoni’s wildest dreams, and certainly one which threw Alex McLeish’s plans right down the toilet. The Scottish coach was expecting to make this a mind game, and take away the playing space from the Azzurri. Instead, Toni’s goal opened an abyss in the Tartan Army‘s plans, who were now forced to show their teeth very early in the match.

Scotland’s initial 4-1-4-1 formation (with James McFadden as the lone striker) tried to reorganize, and to put pressure on the Azzurri central line, but with little effect at first. In the 13th minute, Toni could have doubled his team’s lead by exploiting an Andrea Pirlo through ball and slamming a close-ranger on the 1st post. Gordon saved into corner.

Andrea Barzagli stops James McFadden with a sliding tackle; the Palermo defender was one of the best players of the game SaturdayEventually, after the shock of the first 15 minutes had passed, Scotland woke up and offered the best they had in store: high pressure, fast transitions, and wing plays ready to feed the ball forward for header lay-ups or finish: boring but effective. In the 16th, the Scots screamed for a handball P.K. when Lee McCulloch’s effort was deflected by Zambrotta, but the Italian wing-back had his arm well against his body, no go. These were tough moments for the Azzurri though, because their opponents were collecting one corner-kick after the other, putting the Italian defense under pressure. First Barry Ferguson sent it miles over the bar in the 17th, then the Scots’ aim got a little better just a minute later: on yet another corner-kick, Alan Hutton’s header missed Gigi Buffon’s post by a hairsbreadth!

At this point for Italy, the match had inverted its drive compared to the exciting first few minutes Donadoni’s men had displayed. For some reason, the Azzurri were entrenching themselves behind their own defense, and the result in terms of midfield playmaking was detrimentally evident. In the 30th, yet another Ferguson chance made Italy realize that it was about time to react, and give a stab of their own. It worked: a minute later, Camoranesi got through on the wing and got a shooting chance after his crossing attempt was intercepted. The ball rebounded on Di Natale, setting up a close-range effort for Massimo Ambrosini, which parried by Gordon turned into a perfect assist for Di Natale for the tap-in. 2-0? Nope, because the linesman decided that the Udinese striker was offside, even though replays showed he was in line with the last defender. Tough call for Italy.

Andrea Pirlo is Azzurri’s savior: a goal-line clearance to keep Italy’s advantageThe half ended on a 1-0 scoreline for Italy, a deserved lead if you count the numerous chances obtained by the Azzurri and the valid goal being called off. However, Scotland certainly hadn’t been a mere spectator, and this match was anything but over. In fact right before the break, the Scots should have tied things up: on yet another… yep you guessed it, corner-kick delivery, Barry Ferguson found the noggin of Alan Hutton who adjusted his header past Gigi Buffon. It would have been a goal, had it not been for the “right-spot-at-the-right-time” placement of Andrea Pirlo, who saved the shot right on the goal line! A very close shave for the Italians.

In the 2nd half, the technical gap between the two teams once again became evident to all, save for the supporters of Hampden Park who were singing their heart out with “Flower of Scotland”. Even ex-Rangers man Gennaro Gattuso had donned his magic boots for this one, because the gnarly Milan midfielder began distributing key passes here and there, such as in the 56th when his cross found Di Natale ready for the volley, but fortunately for Gordon one of his defenders parried the shot.

Barry Ferguson has just tied the game on an offside goal, Scotland’s hopes are still aliveFollowing that chance, the game’s momentum shifted once again, and Italy progressively let ball possession slip away from them. All in all, it wasn’t such a bad deal for the Azzurri who could then exploit all the space created by their opponents on counter-attacks. However, if technique and experience weren’t going to lend the home team a hand in this match, good old Scottish pride would: in the 65th, exploiting a free-kick 25 yards out, James McFadden slammed his shot right onto the Azzurri wall, whose deflection landed to McCulloch in perfect position. Less perfect however was the midfielder’s finish (right at Buffon from close-range), but fortunately for Scotland the Italian goalkeeper could only parry the ball away as far as Ferguson, and this time Hampden Park could erupt as the ball was slammed into the net. An even more fortunate circumstance for the home team, considering that at the time of McCulloch’s shot, Ferguson was clearly offside.

With the score now tied 1-1, Donadoni decided it was time to make some changes: out Totò Di Natale, in Vincenzo Iaquinta to bring more weight to the Azzurri front. Meanwhile, McLeish tried to push his men to obtain the victory goal by inserting another striker into the mix (in Kenny Miller for midfielder Scott Brown).

Christian Panucci’s header is about to make it 2-1 for ItalyThe final quarter of this match was to die for. Litterally. Especially when McFadden wasted an open-net opportunity after a set-up by Miller in the 81st, or when Panucci inexplicably missed his header from a perfect Pirlo free-kick delivery in the 88th. Fortunately for the Azzurri, the AS Roma wing-back would redeem himself shortly after. On yet another Pirlo FK, the cross by the AC Milan midfielder found the noggin of Panucci, who adjusted a perfect parabolic header onto Gordon’s far post. 2-1, Scotland’s heart was in pieces, and the Azzurri through to Euro 2008. Evvai!

 Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio
[Match Highlights]
 Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio
GOALSCORERS: 2’ Toni (I), 65’ Ferguson (S), 91’ Panucci (I)
SCOTLAND (4-1-4-1): Gordon – Hutton, Naysmith, McManus, Weir – Hartley – Ferguson, McCulloch (92’ Boyd), Fletcher, Brown (74’ Miller) – McFadden. (bench: McGregor, Caldwell, Alexander, Pearson, Robson). Coach: McLeish.
ITALY (4-3-3): Buffon – Panucci, F.Cannavaro, Barzagli, Zambrotta – Gattuso (87’ De Rossi), Pirlo, Ambrosini – Camoranesi (78’ Chiellini), Toni, Di Natale (68’ Iaquinta). (bench: Amelia, Oddo, Perrotta, Gilardino). Coach: Donadoni.


To wrap up, some pictures of the post-match celebrations, courtesy of Gazzetta dello Sport:

Panucci-De Rossi
Christian Panucci-Daniele De Rossi, the AS Roma connection

Full time whistle, the Azzurri are through!
Full time whistle, the Azzurri are through!

Panucci-Donadoni: the Italian coach was sharing hugs with each one of his players at the end of the match
Panucci-Donadoni: the Italian coach was sharing hugs with each one of his players at the end of the match

Cannavaro-Buffon-Barzagli hug: the Italian captain can rejoice!!!!
Cannavaro-Buffon-Barzagli hug: the Italian captain can rejoice!!!!

Posted in Azzurri, Euro 2008 |

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  • 11 Responses to “Italy crush Scotland’s hopes: 91st min. Goal by Panucci sends the Azzurri through to Euro 2008”

    1. Christophe says:

      Such a shame, it would had been so pleasant to see Scotland back in a international competition.

      From France


    2. Yeah, I was thinking ‘Yes!, Scotland are finally back in a big comp., and the wogs are out!’ But that wouldn’t happen..

      Theres still WC 2010 and Euro 2012..

    3. hang your heads high you mighty scots, you did scotland and the uk proud

    4. Andrei says:

      Deserves first-half? Deserved qualification? What game have you been watching? The Scots were too powerful for the Italians and clearly dominated them in teh first half when the rain was pouring down and the pitch was a swamp. Italy had the better start, but once the Scots settled in they were the masters of the game. Italy was a dead man walking.

      At the end the Scots were ROBBED, not by the Italians, but by UEFA, who desperately have to have Italy and Engalnd at Euro 2008, otherwise, their revenue will be cut by a couple of million euros… disaster! Can you imagine?

      Italy and England do not deserve to qualify, but one of them already has sealed a place and I fear (’I’ being an England fan) that the other will qualify too, breaking even more hearts.

    5. Eric Cantona says:

      The Italians deserved to win that match for two reasons:-

      (i) they punished the scots for their sloppy defending for the first goal. If a team concedes a goal 68 SECONDS into the first half at home then it shows that they can’t handle the pressure of a big game, there should be no excuses for that. Luca Toni must have been pinching himself after that golden opportunity!

      (ii) Italy had a perfectly good goal disallowed even though the scorer was onside. It would have been an injustice had they not won the match.

    6. Steve Amoia says:

      Andrei, if we examine the game in detail, Scotland had their chances, and didn’t finish them. Weir’s header in the first half, along with the two missed opportunities in the goal mouth late in the game. Specifically, when McFadden missed with Buffon beaten in the 81st minute.

      If you look again at Barry Ferguson’s goal, he was in an offsides position. It has already been noted that Di Natale was onsides. When asked about the call that produced Panucci’s goal at the death, both of these points were raised by Mister Donadoni during his interviews with the BBC and RAI.

      I agree that England and Italy would be sorely missed from an economic perspective. But one call by the referee does not determine a game. Mr. Gonzalez made several that were questionable on either side of equation. There were 45 fouls whistled in this match: 27 against the Scots, and 18 against the Italians. Given what was at stake, there was a great display of fair play by both sides. Surely, as fans, we look at a big call and want to paint the entire game by that stroke. Panucci easily could have scored three minutes before, and the free kick that didn’t go Scotland’s way would have been moot.

      Shots on goal were 17 (10 on target for Italy) to 13 (7 on target for Scotland). Ball possession was 50/50. Scotland had 6 corners to 4 for the Azzurri.

      Scotland beat France twice, who are rated number 3 by Not many teams, including Italy, have done that recently. Italy hasn’t defeated France in normal time since 1978. As Donadoni also noted, 24 points was a significant accomplishment from this tough group.

      Scotland’s resurgence, along with their great supporters, have given world football a fine example at a time when we need it. Italy demonstrated that they are worthy World Champions, and won for the first time on Scottish soil.

      Great game report, Marco.

    7. dickson says:

      I feel that this game report is biased towards the Italian. Great game however.. it was a shame that the game was decided by the official. Btw, someone mentioned to me that the Italian goal was disallowed for hand ball instead of offside, anyone paying close attention? Seriously though.. Chellieni didnt even know that he won the free kick.. he trotted away thinking he committed a foul. extremely bad officiating.

    8. Andrei says:

      The goal WAS disallwoed for handball, not offside. And there was a handball.

      I agree with you Steve, Italy are worthy World Champions, but I had not believed it since I saw the game last night. They are a team who refuse to lose, unlike Brazil who is usually the team that scores more goals. Fair play to Italy who played a relatively clean game (given the standards they have set from games such as that against France).

      I know this does not mean much for the Scots after they have just been sent out of the competition, but they have played on Saturday better than England have played in the past five years and they deserved, more than any other team, to be in Austria/Switzerland next sumemr. Like Dan said, “hang your heads high”!

    9. Steve Amoia says:

      Dickson, here is a quote from a UK-based site, “Football Italia,” regarding the disallowed Italian goal.

      “Italy hit the back of the net for a second time, but it was disallowed for an incorrect offside position. Toni, Camoranesi and Di Natale combined as a series of ricochets finally saw Di Natale blast in from six yards, but the linesman disallowed the goal for offside. Replays show the Udinese star was kept in play by the Scottish defence when Gordon parried Massimo Ambrosini’s effort into his path.”

      During the game, I heard Fabio Capello use the term “fuorigiuoco” (offsides) a few times after Di Natale’s annulled goal. Donadoni said the same thing to the BBC in English after the game. Last night, there was a video on their site with his comments.

      I also heard, as I’m certain that you did, different commentary about the game from McFadden and Mr. McLeish.

    10. dickson, of course it’s slightly biased towards Italy: where do you think I’m from?

      I will recognize that last call on which Chiellini obtained the foul was quite ridiculous, but to be honest the referee made some dodgy decisions during the entire game, and they went both ways. Especially with regards to fouls: a given time a slight touch on the shoulder would be called as a foul and 2 minutes later, on a blatantly deliberate shoulder charge he’d wave play on.

      However in all seriousness, to all those that are even contesting whether Di Natale’s goal was valid and Ferguson’s goal was offside, do us all a favor: get some prescription glasses and please stop driving your car for a while, we’ll all feel safer.

    11. mark says:

      Gutted, absolutely gutted. Just when I thought Scotland were through. All credit to players, staff and management for delivering pride back into Scottish national football.