Posts Tagged ‘International Friendly’

Brazil 2-0 Italy: Elano & Robinho Sink Azzurri in London (International Friendly)

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

It was a match between football titans, two giants in the history of the beautiful game and one of the most high-profile sporting rivalries of the past century. Between themselves Brazil and Italy represented 9 World Cup titles combined: as the two most succesful national teams in history faced off at the Emirates Stadium Tuesday, one can easily guess this was a match neither of them wanted to lose.

Well, based on the starting line-ups one team more than the other perhaps, and inevitably that is the team that ended up winning.


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

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

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.


Italy vs. Austria Preview – The Return of Marcello…

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Italy FA (Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio)Österreichischer Fußball-Bund (Austrian Football Association)

Goalkeepers: Buffon (Juventus), Amelia (Palermo)
Defenders: Barzagli (Wolfsburg), Bonera (Milan), Cassetti (Roma), Dossena (Liverpool), Grosso (Lyon), Legrottaglie (Juventus), Zambrotta (Milan)
Midfielders: Aquilani (Roma), Camoranesi (Juventus), De Rossi (Roma), Gattuso (Milan), Palombo (Sampdoria), Perrotta (Roma), Pirlo (Milan)
Forwards: Del Piero (Juventus), Di Natale (Udinese), Gilardino (Fiorentina), Iaquinta (Juventus)

After their not-so-glorious Euro 2008 epilogue, Italy step back onto the field tonight against Austria, an international friendly which will also mark the big return of 2006 winning manager Marcello Lippi (back at the team’s helm after almost a 2-year sabbatical). Marcello’s mission will be, first and foremost, to re-motivate the group after their European championship fiasco, and incorporate young prospects into the already well-established “core” of veteran players. Needless to say, we are bound to see some changes compared to the “usual suspects” from the Donadoni era.

The call-ups for today’s friendly for instance already contained a few surprises, such as the returns of Alberto Gilardino and Vincenzo Iaquinta (who had to skip Euro 2008 due respectively to poor form and injury), as well as the inclusion of Daniele Bonera, Marco Cassetti, Andrea Dossena, and Angelo Palombo. Lippi’s “list of 20″ also includes some of the main “senators” from the 2006 World Cup (Del Piero, Grosso, Zambrotta, Perrotta… to name a few), while the most notable absentees (so far) from the Donadoni-era are Antonio Cassano (probably not fully fit yet), as well as Christian Panucci and Massimo Ambrosini (both of whom Lippi was never a big fan). Fabio Cannavaro, Marco Materazzi, Giorgio Chiellini, Alessandro Gamberini, Riccardo Montolivo, and Luca Toni on the other hand, were kept out due to injury problems.

Marcello Lippi’s press-conference in Coverciano gave a few hints Monday on the general playing philosphy, as well as the type of players, the Italian coach will be seeking for this Azzurri group.

Italy FA (Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio)It Is time once again to win something, Italian football has not lost its value, quality, and potential over these last two years. (…) With 4-5 new entries this team has still a lot to give and a lot to say.” said Lippi.

Our main objective now, will be to re-create the pyschological prerequisites needed to build a winning group. We have the luck and the privilege to be defending the world champions title, even though there is an enormous difference between now and four years ago, back when football in Italy had acquired a bad image and we needed to come together as a team. Today, the team might have “aged” a little, but we still have the same basic core of reliable players which we can’t forget“.

However, Lippi pointed out future team call-ups will not be made on the basis of gratitude. “Even though I will always be grateful to the veterans of this team, my call-ups will be based on merit alone. In particular, above all I will ask the players to put themselves at the service of the team. Schemes and tactical modules come second.”

For further info and one-on-one interviews with Lippi, you can check out the following articles here on mCalcio:

Anti-Austria Line-Up

As per tradition, Lippi has been quite secretive with regards to line-up revelations. In fact, the Azzurri themselves did not know who would be starting tonight until very early this morning. Based on form and “common sense” however, we can hypothesize a 4-3-3 formation and the following.

Buffon is a given in goal, while the back-line leaves very few details to imagination as well: Zambrotta, Bonera, Barzagli, and Grosso are the elected candidates. A surprise here could be the inclusion of Legrottaglie (called in replacement of Chiellini) in place of Bonera.

In midfield, Pirlo should provide the playmaking duties, completed by Gattuso and De Rossi.

Finally up front, Monday Lippi seemed to be seduced with the idea of an attacking trio, composed namely by Del Piero, Gilardino, and Di Natale. “That’s one way we could play” said the coach. “It’s a fascinating solution but it requires the strikers to be attentive during the defensive phase as well. With Camoranesi I could have had other options perhaps, but I preferred not to risk aggravating his injury (note: Camoranesi will most likely have to skip tonight’s match).” Based strictly on form though, the hypothesis of an ADP-Gila-Iaquinta trio seems far more likely.

Italy vs. Austria, kick-off time 20:45 CET.

Italy 3-1 Belgium (Internat’l Friendly): Di Natale’s A-Rockin’, Italy’s A-Poppin’

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

Italy FA (Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio)KBVB/URBSFA: Koninklijke Belgische Voetbalbond, Union Royale Belge des Societes de Football Association

Ya, corny title but it summarizes the Azzurri’s current match form pretty well. Ok ok Belgium aren’t exactly living up to their Diables Rouges title lately, and the RAI commentators themselves repeatedly defined them as nothing more than a “sparring partner” for Italy. Still, there’s something very reassuring about the way Donadoni’s team handled the first 60 minutes of Friday’s friendly: less than two weeks before their Euro 2008 debut Cannavaro’s still rock-solid, Di Natale’s in great form, Del Piero and Cassano have plenty to say, and the Azzurri’s 4-3-3 formation is a well-oiled machine.

With 10 days left till the opening match vs. Holland, Friday’s test was very important for Roberto Donadoni, and despite all the rumours surrounding Del Piero’s & Cassano’s simultaneous utilization, the Don stuck to his trademarked and tested 4-3-3 formation, with Luca Toni up front surrounded by Antonio Di Natale and Mauro Camoranesi on the wings. At the end of the day and based on Italy’s performance Friday, no choice could have been more spot on. Compared to pre-match expectations however, two changes saw the day in the Azzurri line-up: Christian Panucci was given a start over Fabio Grosso as right-back (thus moving Zambrotta on the left), while Alberto Aquilani occupied the central midfield position alongside Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso (in-form Daniele De Rossi and usual starter Massimo Ambrosini were left on the bench). Meanwhile, the confirmation of Andrea Barzagli alongside Fabio Cannavaro should serve as almost-conclusive evidence that Marco Materazzi lost his starting role with the Azzurri.

Italy’s start of the match was, without exaggeration, thundering. Gattuso (yes, Gattuso!) had the first shot on target (deflected), shortly followed by Panucci, which eventually lead to the 9th minute opener by Antonio Di Natale. The Udinese striker summoned his best technical abilities by converting a pinpoint cross from the right wing, and slamming it home past Stijn Stijnen with a rotating short-range volley. The provider? Andrea Pirlo, who else? 1-0 Italy.

Following their goal, the Azzurri continued to have fun. Their ball possession, energy, passing game were top-notch and far exceeded the resistance provided by their Belgian counterparts. Luca Toni was doing what Toni does best, holding the ball, laying it up for his teammates, or attempting to take on the two center-backs himself (often succeeding, but being however unable to get a good shot in), all the while the constant overlaps of Panucci and Camoranesi on the right wing were creating havoc in the Belgian defense. Only Aquilani was being perhaps a bit too casual in his ball distribution, giving up the ball a couple of times and being duly reprimanded by Donadoni on the occasion. The Roma midfielder more than compensated for it however, by providing Di Natale with the one-touch assist for the second goal of the game, a low finish into the bottom-right corner that left Stijnen no chance. 2-0 Italy at the break, but not before Toni headed a Panucci cross narrowly over the bar.

In the second half, time for some Azzurri changes: Cannavaro, Panucci and Di Natale out, Chiellini, Grosso, and Del Piero in. Inspired substitutions these were, in particular regarding the latter: immediately receiving two aerial through balls by Pirlo, the Juventus striker delayed play keeping his marker occupied, then dished out a delicate no-look pass towards the right for Mauro Camoranesi. The Italo-Argentine hit a low ball between the keeper’s legs and increased the Azzurri’s goaltotal to three. 3-0 Italy = magnifico! (or in the words of Donadoni: “Perfetto!”).

Eventually around the hour mark, there was time for Antonio Cassano as well. Replacing Camoranesi, the remaining 30 minutes showcased exactly what the Italian press had so eagerly anticipated the previous week: the concurrent utilization of Del Piero, Toni and Cassano. In particular, the utilization of the Juve captain as a second striker (not as a left winger), just as the doctor ordered for maximum efficiency. During this time however, while the Azzurri’s energy-level suffered no drop in performance, their cohesion certainly did. Far from the thoroughly play-tested and over-rehearsed 4-3-3 formation, Italy’s free-flowing passing began to suffer, and the fact the Belgian defenders were getting a little too physical for general taste (on Cassano in particular) certainly didn’t help.

Eventually, the Don also brought on Marco Borriello in place of Toni (undoubtedly in order to assess the player’s level of form). Well, the early verdict on the ex-Genoa (now AC Milan) striker still raises some eyebrows, as Borriello incredibly missed an open net chance served to him on a platter by Zambrotta. Stagefright? Anyways, there weren’t many other scoring opportunities left in this game, save for a Zambrotta left-footer (parried by Stijnen) and Cassano header over the bar (set up by Del Piero). Belgium came close to goal with Wesley Sonck (header wide), then with… Wesley Sonck (parried by Buffon), and eventually found their goal through… Wesley Sonck (headed corner in the 92nd). 3-1.

The Club Brugge striker had indeed the most active of his team in trying to find the back of the net, although on the occasion there was perhaps some excessive laxness in the Azzurri’s man-marking. Since Italy were already up by 3, we’re ready to forgive them missing out on the clean sheet, but vacation’s over guys: next week’s the real deal!


 Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio ITALY-BELGIUM
[Match Highlights]
Belgium FA (KBVB/URBSFA: Koninklijke Belgische Voetbalbond, Union Royale Belge des Societes de Football Association)
GOALSCORERS: 9’, 41’ Di Natale (I), 49’ Camoranesi (I), 92’ Sonck (B)
ITALY (4-3-3): Buffon – Panucci (46’ Grosso), F.Cannavaro (46’ Chiellini), Barzagli, Zambrotta – Gattuso, Pirlo, Aquilani (75’ Ambrosini) – Camoranesi (61’ Cassano), Toni (75’ Borriello), Di Natale (46’ Del Piero). (bench: Amelia, De Sanctis, Materazzi, De Rossi, Perrotta, Quagliarella). Coach: Donadoni.
BELGIUM (4-3-1-2): Stijnen – Hoefkens (46’ Swerts), Kompany, Vertonghen, Pocognoli – Witsei (71’ Gillet), Simons, Mudingayi (84’ Huysgens) – Defour (58’ Mirallas) – Fellaini, Dembele (58’ Sonck). (bench: Renard, De Roover, De Man, Mulemo). Coach: Vandereycken.