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

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Italia 2 x Austria 2: The Lippi Era Begins in Nice, France

Mister Lippi
decided to go with the trident attack.
This was the lineup for the Azzurri:

Zambrotta, Bonera, Barzagli, Grosso
Gattuso, Pirlo, De Rossi
Di Natale, Gilardino, Del Piero (captain)
In the 14th minute, against the run of play, Pogatetz placed a perfect left-footed volley past a surprised Gigi Buffon. When I saw this, I recalled Lippi's first game on the Azzurri bench four years ago in Iceland (2 x 0). Shortly after, Manninger made a superb save on Gilardino, who should have buried the shot past him. The Italians looked tentative, and somewhat surprised that Austria wanted to do more than put 10 men behind the ball.

In the 39th minute, it happened again. From a throw-in, a ball was headed directly to an inadequately marked Janko (Barzagli), who volleyed it with his left foot past Buffon. But the Austrians did not sit on the lead. They continued to attack, and if it weren't for a great save by Buffon, this game would have been over in the first half. A few minutes later, as the half ended, an own goal (or one significantly influenced by an ill-placed clearance) by Stranzl from a deft cross on the left side by Di Natale gave some hope to the Azzurri. Initially, it appeared that Gilardino chested the ball into an empty net. Officially, he was credited with the goal. In any event, Manninger was out of position, and the defender should have cleared the ball out to safety.

Second Half

Mr. Lippi brought in Perrotta, Acquilani, Legrottaglie, and Dossena for Gattuso, Pirlo, Grosso, and Bonera. In an ironic repeat of the World Cup semi-final, Gilardino passed the same type of ball (tunnel) to Del Piero, who tried to bend it around the Austrian keeper, Oczan. He missed the inside of the right post by a very small margin. The Azzurri were showing more urgency in attack.

In the 67th minute, Zambrotta placed a cross that inexplicably was handed into the goal by the Austrian substitute, keeper, Oczan. One of his defenders jumping in front of him seemed to confuse him. 2 x 2... Gilardino missed a few more good chances, but Italy pushed forward for the winner.

Overall, a decent August performance, and a good start for both teams, along with their respective managers. The Azzurri need to patch some defensive holes, and find a striker who finishes consistently. They created many chances tonight, but due to two gifts from Austria, obtained a draw.

  • The Azzurri wore black armbands to honor Roma President, Mr. Franco Sensi, who died on Sunday.
  • Two Juventus keepers faced each other tonight.
  • Del Piero won his 90th cap for Italy.
  • The great Czech Coach, Mister Karel Bruckner, made his debut on the Austrian bench.
  • Austria has been Italy's most frequent adversary in international competition, and has not beaten the Azzurri since 1970.
  • The Azzurri are unbeaten in the last 26 games with Lippi on the bench. The record, 30, is held by Vittorio Pozzo.
  • Their next game will be on 06 September in Cyprus for the first qualification game of World Cup 2010.

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