Posts Tagged ‘Ante Kulusic’

Croatia 1-1 Italy: Azzurrini Through to Playoffs Round (U-21 Euro 2009 Qualifiers)

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Mission accomplished for Italy’s U21 team. In order to qualify for the Euro 2009 knock-out round, a win or a draw against Croatia was necessary for Casiraghi’s boys Tuesday, a task which the Azzurrini completed with brio.

In truth, the final scoreline doesn’t really reflect how this match played out, because of over 83 minutes the blue youngsters completely dominated their chequered-shirt opponents, after having taken the lead by a great Marco Motta goal in the 37th. Only a ballistic exploit in the final quarter (signed Ante Kulusic) could tie the game for the home team, but alas it was too little too late. Italy will move on, Croatia’s run will stop here.

The playoff draw will take place in Malmo (Sweden) at 12.00 CET on September 12, while the playoffs themselves will be played on October 10/11 and 14/15 on a home/away leg basis. The victors from each two-legged tie will join hosts Sweden in the competition proper from June 15 to 29, 2009.

(From Gazzetta): Compared to the 1-1 draw vs. Greece, manager Pierluigi Casiraghi decided to make several changes to his formation: take out Salvatore Bocchetti, backtrack Paolo De Ceglie in defense, and insert Antonio Candreva in midfield. Against a Croatian team overwhelmed by their opponents’ technical superiority, this was a match in which concentration and experience would be the determining factors.

After a good start to the match, the Vatreni (nickname for the Croatian football team, meaning “fiery ones”) considerably dropped in rhythm, thus allowing Italy to progressively get their heads of their shells and put the technique of Giovinco, Balotelli (and a surprise: Motta) to full use. Counter-attacks were flocking in the Croatian box, and it was only due to a serious lack of cynicism that the Azzurri could not capitalize on their domination. Until minute 37 that is…

At the heart of the action, there was once again Sebastian Giovinco: after a daring shoot-straight-from-the-corner-kick attempt, “La formica atomica” tried his luck again from the other corner and delivered a perfect cross for Marco Motta. The right-back’s header was as powerful as it was accurate: ball below the bar and 1-0 Italy.

In the second period, Croatian coach Dražen Ladić attempted to give his team a “boost” with the insertions of Tomasov and Vida, but it had little to no effect on the course of the game. The Azzurrini central defense had litterally built an iron wall to defend Consigli’s goal, while on the other end scoring chances continued to multiply for the Italian strikers. Giovinco however was having some accuracy problems today (dribbling well but shooting wide), while someone had apparently replaced the Balotelli we saw against Greece Friday with an injured dummy. Thus, Casiraghi insert Osvaldo and Dessena into the mix, and the two immediately combined to give Giovinco yet another opportunity to close the match. Once again however, the Juventus trequartista blanked out.

And so, amidst all these wasted chances (and a scary 60%+ ball possession statistic for Italy), Croatia managed to grab the equalizer. Almost fortuitously I might add, stemming from a free-kick and a general massive brain-freeze of the Azzurrini defense. The 1-1 was however too late. Casiraghi replaced Giovinco with Bolzoni, and held the fort until the full-time whistle. The next rendez-vous will be on September 12, to find out the Azzurrini’s playoff round opponent.

Ten group winners:
Italy, Turkey, England, Spain, Switzerland, Finland, Austria, Serbia, Germany, Wales.

Four best runners-up:
Belarus, Israel, France, Denmark.


Croatian Football Federation (Croatian: Hrvatski Nogometni Savez - HNS)
[Match Highlights]
 Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio
GOALSCORERS: 37′ Motta (I), 83‘ Kulusic (C).
CROATIA (4-4-2): Kelava – Simek (46’ Vida), Kulusic, Ipsa, Ilicevic – Jajalo, Ljubicic (46’ Tomasov), Pamic, Badelj – Brezovec (63’ Krizman), Smrekar. (bench: Jezina, Dinjar, Maloca, Prahic). Coach: Ladic.
ITALY (4-4-1-1): Consigli – Motta, Andreolli, Criscito, De Ceglie – Candreva (75’ Morosini), Dessena, Cigarini, Marchisio – Giovinco (84’ Bolzoni) – Balotelli (59’ Osvaldo). (bench: Sirigu, Bocchetti, Ranocchia, Paolucci). Coach: Casiraghi.