Tomorrow night in Sofia, the Azzurri will look to solidify their lead at the top of the Group 8 table. This will be their third qualification game on the road to South Africa. There will be 22 other qualification games around the world on Saturday.
Kickoff is at 2015 CET or 1815 GMT. The Bulgarian Football Federation has promised a bonus of €100,000 if the Bulgarians defeat the world champions.
Comments by Mister Lippi
"Molto soddisfatto di come ha lavorato la squadra in questa settimana. Di giovani e vecchi, che si integrano perfettamente".
"... Very satisfied how the team worked this week. From the young players to the old guard, they integrated perfectly."Source: La Gazzetta dello Sport, 10 October 2008.
Amelia (Gigi Buffon is injured).
Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Chiellini, Dossena
De Rossi, Gattuso, Montolivo
Di Natale, Gilardino, Pepe.
Mister Markov fielded a very compact 4-1-4-1, while Mister Lippi used the attacking trident. The half was quite uneventful. Neither keeper was pressured, and I can't recall one goal scoring opportunity for either side. Bulgaria was very defensive and cautious. With only one striker, Berbatov, they looked to counter attack a few times, but seemed content to close down the Italians with 10 men behind the ball. The Azzurri, with many new faces in the lineup, seemed tentative in front of a very hostile Bulgarian crowd.
In the 77th minute, Giuseppe Rossi made his debut for the Azzurri. Three minutes later, he took the ball in midfield, and fed a perfect ball for Gilardino, who failed to finish with only the keeper to beat. Rossi was born and raised in New Jersey, and declined, on a few occasions, to be courted by US Soccer.
In the 87th minute, Yankov had a powerful shot saved by Amelia. Perhaps their best opportunity of this very cautious game. De Rossi had a chance to win the game for Italy, but his free kick grazed just over the crossbar.
After the game, Mister Lippi had a few comments for RAI:
"I am pleased... The team played with authority, and showed personality... The younger players mixed well with the older ones. They didn't give us much space, and we defended well."The reality remains that this team has problems creating goal scoring opportunities. Against better sides, the Azzurri have struggled. Tonight was a bland offensive performance with very little creativity until Rossi came on. Not withstanding a great performance by De Rossi (The Man of the Match), I counted only 2 or 3 shots on target.
- This was Fabio Cannavaro's 119th cap for Italy. Paolo Maldini holds the record at 126.
- This was the first cap for Simone Pepe and Giuseppe Rossi.
- This was the first competitive qualification appearance for Marco Amelia.
- Luca Toni, a second half substitute, received a yellow card and will miss the next game against Montenegro. He extended his lack of scoring streak to 7 games for the Azzurri.
- Fabio Quagliarella of Udinese will be called into the team to replace Toni.