Posts Tagged ‘Georgia’

Italy 2-0 Georgia – All Hail DDR… (World Cup 2010 Qualifiers)

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

On Wednesday night, as Italy battled Georgia and the sky of Udine radiantly displayed its Azzurri colors, there was a slight touch of giallorosso on the almighty’s paintbrush.

With Andrea Pirlo now wearing nº10 (stupid FIFA rules) and a certain Francesco Totti still keeping his retirement vows, things have been a bit confusing with Azzurri shirt numbers lately. So enter Daniele De Rossi, the man setting the pace for everyone else.

DDR was no nº10 tonight (like he had been during Euro 2008), nor was he a nº6 (despite what the number on his back said). No, he was something in between. In the words of Marcello Lippi, someone like Steven Gerrard or Frank Lampard… a true nº8. A number 8 with a double in his feet, just aching to come out…

(From Gazzetta): Another Italian victory: playing a bit better after their (cough… fortunate) 2-1 win in Cyprus the Azzurri defeated Georgia 2-0 (the same margin of victory as in October 2007, in the Euro 2008 qualifiers). Back then, the goals were signed Pirlo and Grosso. This time around, two beautiful goals by Daniele De Rossi, just enough to remain at the top of group B in the South Africa 2010 qualifiers.

INITIAL SPRINT – Italy had a strong start to the match, perhaps eager to make up for their average performance in Cyprus. Or maybe just eager to quickly secure the top of the group, before the playing comfort started to disappear. Antonio Di Natale (Udine’s pride) was certainly on that same wavelength: his 10th minute finish on Toni’s poked pass was just inches wide of post. The goal was however just around the corner, and we would only need to wait a few minutes for it. Cue Daniele De Rossi and his 30m left-foot ripper from outside the box. Awesome shot, and 1-0 Italy.

Taking the lead evidently enabled the Azzurri to get rid of their tension (and nervousness): Pirlo and Aquilani showcased their backheeling ability in quick succession, and Italy really seemed to be having fun on the pitch. Less than a half-hour into the match, La Ola (the wave) broke out in the stands.

SCARE - However, it was too soon to celebrate because Levan Kenia, the fast and persevering Georgian 18 year-old, gobbled up an easy goal in front of Buffon (after an assist from another guy called Levan, Mchedlidze this time aka Palermo’s new on-loan youngster). Italy cooled down their verve a bit, as Lippi made Di Natale and Camoranesi switch places and then asked the same from Aquilani and Pirlo. Georgia – who had moved their wingers back to midfield – tried some timid moves (but with little success) while Italy in the meantime, was showing bits of clumsiness in midfield (Pirlo‘s no side midfielder, no news there, and Aquilani still seems unable to find the “right” position in the Azzurri central line). The score thus remained 1-0 till the half-time break.

SUBSTITUTIONS - At the restart, Lippi decided to bring Angelo Palombo on for Pirlo for the second half, followed shortly after by Alessandro Del Piero for Di Natale. The Azzurri’s creative outlets could not find inspiration however, and the team still struggled to play the ball into open space. Georgia reverted to their “turtle-shell” strategy, something not particularly to the liking of Hector Cuper (“agitated” on the sidelines).

As for the Azzurri, Luca Toni found it (once again) very hard to rid himself of Kaladze’s marking and get to net, all the while Aquilani (considerably improving his performance in the second half), shot a beautiful short-range left kick that barely missed the net. Then Del Piero tried to turn on his “zona” game (outside dribble on the edge of the box and inswinging shot towards the top-right corner), lacking accuracy over power. Lippi made one last change with Vincenzo Iaquinta for Toni (thus completing the Di Natale-Dossena ex & current Udinese players trio) who immediately got a few good shots on target, but found the ready hands of Loria to parry away.

SECOND GOAL - The 2-0 wasn’t materialising, and thus fear began to loom over the stands: the only breakaways were coming from the Georgian side, and Buffon was even called into action on a dangerous through ball. Some spectators even started to boo at this point, but were rapidly silenced as Daniele De Rossi (man-of-the-match tonight… who else?) exploited a good Del Piero assist to send a low ball past the Georgian keeper. 2-0 Italy and the first double in DDR’s Azzurri career. Good enough for another Ola in the stands…


 Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio
[Match Highlights]
 Georgian Football Federation
GOALSCORERS: 16’, 90’ De Rossi (I).
ITALY (4-3-3): Buffon – Zambrotta, Legrottaglie, F.Cannavaro, Dossena – Pirlo (46’ Palombo), De Rossi, Aquilani – Camoranesi, Toni (70’ Iaquinta), Di Natale (56’ Del Piero). (bench: De Sanctis, Barzagli, Cassetti, Gilardino). Coach: Lippi.
GEORGIA (4-3-3): Loria – Lobjanidze, Salukvadze, Kaladze, Eliava (46’ Kvirkvelia) – Monteshashvili (69’ Odikadze), Khmaladze, Kobiashvili – Kenia, Mchedlidze (55’ Siradze), Iashvili. (bench: Kvaskhvadze, Shashiashvili, Kvakhadze, Alekside). Coach: Cuper.


Waiting for Georgia: Azzurri Looking at Major Defense Overhaul

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

I will make many changessaid Lippi after the Cyprus game. And that’s exactly what we’re expecting on Wednesday, when Italy receives Georgia at Stadio Friuli of Udine. Particularly we are looking at a big overhaul in defense, because the zone of the field which historically has made them famous is looking very shaky in the Azzurri at the moment.

And who would have thought? In their last two official matches (one unfriendly and one friendly also unfriendly) the Azzurri have conceded 3 goals, resulting in an alarming 1.5 goals per game average. In fact that statistic could have been even worse, had it not been for a certain Gianluigi Buffon keeping guard between the posts (especially on Saturday). Kinda ironic when you consider that not so long ago (ok, 2 years) the team coached by the same man conceded 2 goals in the entire World Cup tournament, one of them being an own goal and the other a penalty kick. Is it really time to sound the alarm, or do the Azzurri have extenuating circumstances?

The answer to that question is: well, a little bit of both. Certainly, the many injuries aren’t helping: Fabio Cannavaro, Giorgio Chiellini, and Marco Materazzi… these are just three of the names that missed out on one (if not both) of the matches in question (and you can say all you want about Matrix’s crappy Euro performance, he was solid against Sampdoria after his return from injury). In particular, the absence of Chiellini (aka the “Azzurri Euro 2008 Rock”) is currently the most problematic, as Saturday proved that even the presence of Fabio Cannavaro can be nullified when he is paired with someone like Andrea Barzagli in calamity-mode.

So, until Keyser Giorgio gets back (sometime in early October) what’s the plan for Wednesday? Andrea Dossena and Nicola Legrottaglie, that’s what.

Andrea Dossena

A skilled wing-back with fast pace and good ball control skills, Dossena seems to be the perfect replacement for one of the Berlin heroes, and most definitely a starter for the Azzurri in the future. Beginning his career at Verona as a youth player in 2001, he was soon promoted to the senior squad in which he totalled 4 seasons before being brought to Serie A by Udinese (2005). The Bianconeri immediately loaned him to Treviso for a year, after which the player returned to Friuli in the 2006-07 season, was given the nº8 jersey and made 63 appearances in the following two years, scoring 2 league goals along the way.

Dossena has only been in England since July (being bought as a direct replacement for John Arne Riise), but he already has a sense of the difference between playing in the Premier League and plying his trade in Serie A. “The Premier League is more advanced in terms of atmosphere and culture, but the Italian way of life is better. Violence however, must disappear from our stadiums. Through a zero tolerance policy or other means, but it must go“.

Replacing the injured Fabio Grosso, the Liverpool defender claims this new starting role is a bittersweet experience. “I’m happy to be in the squad but not as Fabio’s expense,” said the ex-Udinese man. “However, I had always hoped to be playing in this match ever since the venue was first revealed. My old Udinese supporters will give us a big boost, especially when our fitness level drops.

Nicola Legrottaglie

As for Legrottaglie, the Juve center-back has been one the nicest surprises of the 2007-08 season. Rising to defensive stardom during his time at Chievo (2002-03), Legrottaglie was bought by Juventus in 2003 to be the natural heir of Paolo Montero. A severe drop in form however pushed the player to the sidelines (and to a series of unproductive loan spells), at which point his Bianconeri career seeemed to have reached a dead-end, as not even Juve’s 2006-07 Serie B season was enough to promote him to a regular starting role.

In 2007-08, Legrottaglie started where he left off the previous season: on the subs bench. However, after the serious injury suffered by new signing Jorge Andrade, he was promoted to the starting eleven for the game against Reggina (September 26), and contributed to the final 4-0 scoreline with a goal. Until the season’s end Legrottaglie paired with Giorgio Chiellini in a starting center-back role, forming one of the best defensive partnerships of the year as Juve conceded only 9 goals in 14 games.

Legrottaglie has openly admitted he owes his recent “transformation” to religion. Indeed since “finding the faith” again, the player’s performances have radically improved: his behaviour on the field is more calm, he gets into less arguments with opposing players, (the number of his yellow cards have also substantially decreased) and more importantly: he’s become reliable. Oh, and also: apparently he hasn’t had sex for over 2 years… Whatever helps, right? I mean, “belonging to Jesus” didn’t stop Kakà from winning the Ballon d’Or, so…

The Anti-Georgia Fantastic Four

Bottom line: we are looking at a Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Legrottaglie, Dossena Azzurri backline for Wednesday.

Gianluca Zambrotta (age 31)Fabio Cannavaro (age 34)Nicola Legrottaglie (age 31)Andrea Dossena (age 26)

As we await the return of Giorgio, let’s hope it will be enough…

Azzurri News: Gennaro Gattuso Joins the Infirmary, and Lippi Talks About the Cyprus Game

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

Lucky? Marcello Lippi isn’t afraid of stating the obvious. In the first two games of his new managerial position (the 2-2 draw vs. Austria -courtesy of a goalkeeping blunder- and the painstaking 2-1 win over Cyprus on Saturday) lady luck was a big factor for the Azzurri, and their manager freely admits it. “I’m not sorry if people say I’m lucky. In Saturday’s game, I sure was, and you can find many examples in my career where good fortune contributed to a win. But there were also many many more victories which had nothing to do with luck.

Amen to that Marcello, but everyone here will agree that Charalambous’s near-misses or Kostantinou’s shots straight at Buffon are just a darn fine example of good karma. The same type of karma which the Azzurri would desperately need in the infirmary: indeed, another player joined the injury list in the Italian roster on Sunday. Midfield dynamo and Azzurri “Braveheart” Gennaro Gattuso broke his wrist during a tackle in training (he slid and hurt himself falling into the sideline dugout), and will have to stay sidelined for at least a month (in his replacement Lippi called up Antonio Nocerino). After Alessandro Gamberini‘s dislocated shoulder and Fabio Grosso‘s broken ribs (both sustained during the match against Cyprus), things could be merrier at Coverciano right now.

But returning to Lippi, the Italian manager announced that his anti-Georgia line-up will be in many parts different that what we saw last Saturday. “I will make many changessaid Lippi, “and not just because of yesterday. I had planned this beforehand, because our fitness preparation is still fairly limited so early in September. Many players are tired, and playing two physically demanding matches in three days takes a big toll on your body. I will have to evaluate everyone’s condition, and then we’ll decide.

Tactics-wise, Lippi also defended his three-men attacking formation and Luca Toni. “In my opinion, such a line-up is best used at the start of a match than during. When you throw several strikers into the mix like that, it’s generally because you are trailing behind. Toni? It’s just a fitness problem: he’s only played in one single Bundesliga game so far. He’s a very important player for the national team, and he will continue to be one and score goals.

And speaking of fitness, the Italian manager also took the opportunity to make a suggestion on improving it. “Serie A should really start a few weeks earlier. But I am glad that the defending world champions are forced to go through a qualifying round. Playing tough matches is very important for the shaping & molding of a team. I have absolute faith in this group of people: in the next two years I will gradually introduce younger players into the roster, and this will give us the opportunity to grow. Our objective is to qualify for the 2010 World Cup without going through same painstaking efforts of Saturday.