Friday, March 25, 2011

Brazilian Gives Italy Precious Win

Slovenia 0 Italy 1: match reportWhether you believe that Thiago Motta should be allowed to play for the Italian national team or not, it has to be admitted that his goal against Slovenia may well see Italy into the group stage of the 2012 European Championships.

Going into this game, Italy sat top of Group C, three points clear of closest rivals Slovenia. Most Italians would probably have settled for a point, but under Cesare Prandelli, Italy have shown that they have more to their game then just defensive resolve.

In fact, in the build-up to this match, attention was more focussed on Italy's attacking dilemmas than their defensive ones. In Cassano, Pazzini and Rossi, Italy have three top class strikers at their disposal, and with only two slots available in the line-up, the question was, who would end up on the bench?

As it transpired, Prandelli elected to go with the more experienced duo of Pazzini and Cassano, with the in form Giuseppi Rossi consigned to the bench. Cassano and Pazzini combined to brilliant effect during their time at Sampdoria, and the hope around the Italy camp was that the pair would once again produce, this time in the colors of the Azzuri.

During the opening jousts of the match it was, unsurprisingly, the hosts who started the better, with Slovenia winning a flurry of corners early on. However, the tide was soon to turn, and on six minutes Udinese keeper Handanovich did well to keep out an effort from Fiorentina midfield player Ricardo Montolivo.

Italy were in the ascendancy, and Pazzini hit the outside of the post from a tight angle, before Robert Koren produced Slovenia's first meaningful effort of the game, a curling shot that was saved by the outstretched fingertips of Gigi Buffon.

As the half came to a close, Cassano and Pazzini began to combine to good effect, with the latter just missing the ball, following the former's cushioned header.

Come the half time whistle, Prandelli was probably the happier of the two managers, with the Italian coach surely satisfied by his side's solid display. Italy kept the ball well in the first half, albeit without the creation of too many chances, and Prandelli would certainly have been wary of the threat posed by the host's counter attack.

The second half started much like the first, with Slovenia enjoying a flurry of corners before Italy began to assert their dominance. Italy looked lively in attack, and on fifty two minutes, Handanovich made a fine double save to keep out Cassano and then Aquilani, but with the goalkeepers on form, it was beginning to seem like the fixture was destined to end a nil-nil draw.

But, on seventy minutes, the whole complexion of the game changed as Motta, latching onto Balzaretti's pass, fired a shot past the previously unstoppable Handanovich, to score his first goal in the colors of the Italian national team. Italy were 1-0 up and it was hard to see anything but an Azzuri win from then on.

During the final twenty minutes of the game, Italy did well to keep out Slovenia, with the impressive defensive combination of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, proving impossible for the home side to get past.

Italy had won, and in doing so had moved six points clear of their opponents, surely insuring a place at next years European Championships.

The casual observer, seeing the 1-0 scoreline, might have been inclined to see this game as a "typically Italian affair", without much goal mouth action, but with, of course, a win for the Azzuri. However, this game was nothing like that, the Italians continued to attack even after going 1-0 up, and their first substitution following the goal was the introduction of striker Giuseppi Rossi, not exactly a defensive maneuver. Another aspect of Italy's win that shouldn't go unnoticed, was the role that attacking full back Balzaretti played in the victory. The Palermo player caused all sorts of problems with his runs up and down the wings, and it was his pass that set up Thiago Motta for his goal. Again, more proof that this Italian side is different than all the rest.

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