Azzurri Analysis – Italy 4-3 New Zealand – Kiwis provide food for thought

Italy warmed up for their Confederations Cup campaign with an amazing 4-3 win over fellow tournament participants, New Zealand in Pretoria on Wednesday evening. The game was far from plain sailing for Marcello Lippi’s world champions, with the Azzurri having to recover from a goal down on three separate occasions during the match to eventually come away with the win. Hardly the stuff of champions or the ideal build-up for a prestigious tournament you may well remark.

Nevertheless, a win is a win in international football and Lippi admitted after the match that although the team lining up against the Kiwis would not be the one to start against the United States next Monday, he felt the match had proven useful: “ It was a training session and this is what we needed tonight, which is why I left out most of the veterans.”


Lippi took the opportunity to test out a number of the squad’s fringe players against Ricki Herbert’s inexperienced and unfancied outfit, giving backup goalkeeper Marco Amelia a rare start, Inter youngster Davide Santon another chance to impress in defence and a three-pronged attack consisting of Giuseppe Rossi, Fabio Quagliarella and Fiorentina hotshot Alberto Gilardino an opportunity to shine. But in the rainy South African capital, it was the OFC Nations Cup holders who made the better start, nearly taking advantage of the first of a number of mistakes from Amelia to almost open the scoring through Celtic’s Chris Killen from a corner. The first goal didn’t prove far away, but to the surprise of the sparse crowd inside Super Stadium it was the Southern Hemisphere team who took the lead when striker Shane Smeltz took advantage of some lackadaisical defending and even poorer goalkeeping from Palermo goalkeeper Amelia to head home.

Despite some half decent opportunities for la Nazionale to equalise, Smeltz – New Zealand’s bright hope for goals – spurned a fabulous opportunity to add to his earlier goal when he pulled his shot wide with Nicola Legrottaglie in close attendance. Gilardino, back in the Italian setup for the Confederations Cup on account of his fabulous goalscoring form for Fiorentina last season, then saw two goalbound efforts blocked in quick succession before levelling the scores with a simple header after being setup by some tremendous play from the impressive Quagliarella,

Another mistake from Amelia, clearly not enjoying his outing as No 1, again cost his team a goal when an ill-timed venture from a corner saw Killen easily beat him in the air to enable the Kiwis to take the lead for the second time in the match and a 2-1 half-time lead. Not even the most-optimistic New Zealand football fan could possibly have predicted such a scoreline going into the interval.

Clearly frustrated by his team’s embarrassing first half performance, Lippi decided to act at half-time despite the match’s friendly status by introducing veteran midfielder Andrea Pirlo into the fray in place of Rossi, whilst reverting to a more traditional 4-4-2 formation. And within minutes of his introduction, the Milan midfielder had helped create the equalizing goal as he combined with Liverpool defender Andrea Dossena to allow the Quagliarella/Gilardino partnership to once again bear fruit with the latter again rising highest to notch his second goal of the match.


Amelia’s abysmal night was not over though. Ten minutes after the Azzurri’s equalizer, making only his ninth appearance in his country’s colours, the unfortunate custodian with possibly the piece de resistance of his mistakes for the evening, gifted New Zealand the lead for a third time when firstly he flapped at a straightforward cross and then proceeded to trip Killen to give away a penalty. The agony wasn’t even over for the crest-fallen keeper, as he allowed the striker to notch his second goal of the game by letting his tame penalty kick squirm under his body to put the Kiwis back in dreamland.

Lippi had seen enough of his kindergarten outfit and quickly sent on the heavy artillery just past the hour to rescue the situation. On came Luca Toni and Vincenzo Iaquinta in place of the lively combination of Quagliarella and Gilardino up front, while Mauro Camoranesi entered the fray to provide more width on the right and Ricardo Montolivo replaced the one stalwart in the starting XI, Gennaro Gattuso. The introduction of Gianluca Zambrotta also saw Santon depart the field of play after notching another 65 minutes of his international apprenticeship.

And Lippi’s timing of his substitutions proved impeccable once again as within 15 minutes of their introduction, the team had turned a one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead. Firstly, Pirlo once again displayed his experience and creative importance to the team by playing a delightful through-ball for Iaquinta to coolly sidefoot home, before the Juventus striker doubled his tally for the evening when he latched onto a parry by the opposition goalkeeper to put the Azzurri 4-3 ahead. Italy held on to claim a narrow victory but Lippi and his men will need to improve drastically next week if their ambitions of winning the Confederations Cup are to be realised with the likes of big guns, Brazil and Spain lying in wait.

Italy 4-3 New Zealand – Gilardino 33, 48, Iaquinta 68, 73; Smeltz 13, Killen 42, pen 57

Italy (4-2-3-1): Amelia – Santon (Zambrotta 65), Legrottaglie, Gamberini, Dossena – Gattuso (Montolivo 60), Palombo – Pepe (Camoranesi 60), Rossi (Pirlo 46), Quagliarella (Iaquinta 60) – Gilardino (Toni 60)

New Zealand (4-4-2): Moss – Mulligan, Vicelich, Boyens, Lochead – Bertos, Brown, Elliot, Brockie (Barron 75) – Smeltz, Killen (Wood 80)

Italy at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup

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June 10, 2009 – 19:50 – Super Stadium, Pretoria

Italy 4-3 New Zealand – Gilardino 33, 48, Iaquinta 68, 73; Smeltz 13, Killen 42, pen 57

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