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"In any language, the whole world is united by a ball." --- Steve Amoia, World Football Commentaries

Friday, June 13, 2008

Euro 2008: Italy 1 x Romania 1: Gigi Saves the Azzurri

Italy v Romania - Group C Euro 2008
Image details: Italy v Romania - Group C Euro 2008 served by picapp.com

For video highlights, please click here.
In a return to Italian football tradition, Alex Del Piero wore the captain's armband for the Azzurri. Gigi Buffon was named the captain for the first game against Holland, even though Del Piero had the most caps, but was not in the starting XI.

Five Tactical Changes: 4-3-1-2

Mister Donadoni made five changes to his lineup; namely, Giorgio Chiellini to partner Christian Panucci, along with Fabio Grosso to play one of the wing backs. Daniele De Rossi replaced Gennaro Gattuso, and Simone Perrotta replaced Max Ambrosini in the midfield. Del Piero, as mentioned, partnered Luca Toni up front.

There was a distinct Juventus influence on this selection: Buffon, Chiellini, Camoranesi, and Del Piero.

Romania had not defeated Italy in a competitive match since 1983. The last actual victory was in 1989.

First half

Italy, as predicted, attacked from the start against a very defensive minded Romanian side.

Del Piero had a great chance in the 9th minute with a header that barely missed. A few minutes later, Camoranesi crossed a perfect ball that just missed the head of Luca Toni. Adrian Mutu had a break away that was nicely parried by Buffon.

Toni then missed another header as the Azzurri kept pushing forward for the first goal. Grosso did nice work down the left wing in the early stages of this game. Christian Chivu then took a powerful free kick that nearly deflected off of Panucci for an own goal against the post. Romania looked very dangerous on set pieces, and given the counter attack goals from Monday night against Holland, this no doubt caused concern for Donadoni.

Italy was producing many chances, but Toni and Del Piero could not finish. Romania's strategy was to counter or take long shots on goal. Rat came very close and had Buffon beaten. Lobont of Romania made a few good saves as Italy dominated play, but could not seem to break the magnet in front of the goal.

Toni had an apparent headed goal disallowed for offside as the half ended. Italy created many goal scoring opportunities, at least 6 by my count, but could not capitalize.

Second Half

Italy v Romania - Group C Euro 2008
Image details: Italy v Romania - Group C Euro 2008 served by picapp.com

In the 55th minute, from a terrible mistake by Gianluca Zambrotta, who headed the ball directly into the Romanian's path, Adrian Mutu clinically finished past Buffon. But a minute later, Italy finally scored. From a corner kick by Del Piero, Chiellini kept the ball alive, and passed it to Christian Panucci who buried the shot bast Lobont. The pace of the game accelerated after the two goals.

Shortly thereafter, Antonio Cassano came in for Perrotta. Toni again missed a great chance with a lunging attempt in front of Lobont. Romania began to attack with efficiency to put more pressure on the Italians. In the 75th minute, a diving header by De Rossi was brilliantly saved by Lobont.

Masterful Penalty Kick Save by Buffon on Mutu

Fabio Quagliarella replaced Del Piero in the 77th minute as Mr. Donadoni looked for the winning goal. Panucci was then called on a dubious foul in the area. The penalty kick by Mutu was saved by the best in the world, Gigi Buffon. First with his hand, and then off of his boot. Bravo Gigi!

Italy v Romania - Group C Euro 2008
Image details: Italy v Romania - Group C Euro 2008 served by picapp.com

A few minutes later, Toni was taken down in the area, but no penalty kick was called by the Norwegian referee, Doctor Tom Ovrebo, who is a psychologist in private life.

In sum, Gigi saved the day for Italy, and they will rue many missed chances. Despite some very questionable calls against them. But that is football.

  • Unseasonal cold weather in Zurich today. Italian broadcasters called it "autumnal."
  • In the post game press conference, Mr. Donadoni said the game officiating was not at the same high level as the player's collective performance.
"Non mi piace discutere sugli arbitri; come capitano a tutti potrei dire che per lui è stata una giornata no; però è davvero strano che riescano a vedere Panucci a terra contro l'Olanda, ma non vedano un giocatore che sta sul palo e che esce sul fuorigioco. Un errore che ci costa davvero caro".

Source: La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"I don't like to discuss about the officiating; as everyone understands I could say that for him (Dr. Ovrebo) it was a bad day; but it is truly strange that they were able to see Panucci on the ground against Holland, but didn't see a player who was near the pole and came out in the offsides trap. An error that cost us dearly."

In soccer, the referee is deemed a part of the pitch. When the ball strikes him, play goes on. Perhaps teams have to view the man with the whistle as another obstacle to be surmounted. Bad calls do not negate the truth: Italy had 41 crosses and 12 corner kicks, countless goal scoring opportunities, and only scored one goal.

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