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Italy v Republic of Ireland
31 May 2014 20:45 SAST
2014-05-31 08:45:00 PM SAST
Ref: M. Oliver
Attendance: 22 879
Republic of Ireland
Good evening footy fans around the world, and welcome to today's match from Craven Cottage, as Italy take on Ireland - their first test ahead of next month's World Cup. I'm Alex Moretto and I'll be your in-game host, guiding you through the match LIVE as it happens!
Cesare Prandelli will name his final 23-man roster tomorrow, as the Italians attempt to put a disastrous 2010 World Cup behind them. The Azzurri boss has named an experimental XI to face Ireland, but insists it is not an experimental match. Prandelli will analyze the players performances closely and narrow the squad down when they return to training tomorrow.
Ireland, on the other hand, will not be participating in the World Cup, but will still have a strong sense of urgency to get back on track after a recent string of poor results. Martin O'Neill has gotten off to a less than ideal start since replacing Giovanni Trapattoni. In his first match at manager, he led the Boys in Green to a 3-0 victory over Latvia, but it has been downhill ever since, drawing 0-0 with Poland and losing 2-1 at home to both Serbia and Turkey.
The teams have been announced, so let us have ourselves a look at the starting XIs:
ITALY XI: Sirigu; Darmian, Paletta, Bonucci; De Sciglio, Motta, Verratti, Montolivo, Marchisio; Rossi, Immobile.
ITALY SUBS: Candreva, Cassano, Pirlo, Buffon, Maggio, Chiellini, Insigne, Balotelli, Destro, Barzagli, De Rossi, Abate, Aquilani, Pasqual, Romulo, Parolo, Cerci, Mirante.
Prandelli admits his toughest task as coach is having to cut seven players from what he believes are the best 30 Italy has to offer. One man out to make the job even harder for the trainer is Ciro Immobile, earning just his second cap for the national team. The Torino striker gets the start up top today, fresh off a breakout campaign that saw him score a staggering 22 league goals. With the final few spots in attack up for grabs, he will be eager to be at his best today in an attempt to make the long trip out to Brazil.
Also in the XI for the Italians are defenders Gabriel Paletta (Parma) and Matteo Darmian (Torino). The pair has only one international cap between them entering today's match, so anything short of a flawless performance will leave them watching the World Cup from their living rooms. In midfield, Marco Verratti is the one with the most to prove as he looks to beat out Marco Parolo and Romulo for the final spot on the 23-man roster.
IRELAND XI: Forde; Coleman, O'Shea, Pearce, Ward; McGeady, Meyler, Hendrick, Pilkington; Hoolahan; Long.
IRELAND SUBS: Clark, Delaney, Murphy, McClean, Doyle, Green, Keogh, Duffy, Kelly, Quinn, Sammon, Cox, Stokes, Lawlor, Murphy.
The players are out, the anthems are playing and we're just about set for kick-off at the lovely Craven Cottage!
Ireland put out an all English-based squad, with very few surprises. Reading centre-back Alex Pearce and Derby midfielder Jeff Hendrick earn rare starts, while Norwich, Hull City and Everton are well represented in the team with two players a piece.
Ireland kick-off and we're underway in London! The Azzurri, moving from left to right, are wearing their blue shirts, while Ireland sport their all black kits.
APPEALS FOR A PENALTY! Italy with a fast start, winning an early corner. Rossi delivers it in to Immobile at the top of the box, and his volley is blocked by what many in blue felt was a hand ball. Nothing given however by referee Mark Oliver and play continues.
WHAT A CHANCE FOR IMMOBILE! A horrendous clearance by Forde gives Italy possession in the attacking third, and Verratti picks out Immobile onside, behind the defence, with a great ball into the box. The Torino strikers first touch lets him down, however, and Forde does well to recover, charging off his line to collect.
INCREDIBLE SAVE BY FORDE! Some lovely passing in midfield allows Italy to break in numbers. Marchisio takes a pass and charges at the defence. He finds space and lets fly from 25 yards out, a laser marked for the top corner, but Forde flies through the air to get a hand to it! Great stop by the Milwall keeper!
Pearce goes in hard on Montolivo now, and the Italian players did not take kindly to that. The Milan midfielder is down and appears to be in considerable pain with the medical staff out attending to him. The challenge was fair, with the Reading defender winning the ball, but the follow through was what appeared to catch Montolivo.
After a lengthy injury delay, the free kick is finally taken by Verratti, who tries to whip it into the box. Ireland deal with it well, clearing the danger and breaking on the counter attack. It falls for McGeady on the right, who breaks into the box and wins Ireland a corner kick.
The corner is taken and flicked on target at the near post, but straight into the hands of Sirigu. Mark Oliver blows his whistle as Montolivo is down again, in pain. This time the stretcher is out and the Milan midfielder's night appears to be over, with Alberto Aquilani set to replace him.
Montolivo is finally carried off after a lengthy delay and play is set to resume. The substitution doesn't change anything tactically in the Italian side, with the Fiorentina midfielder a spitting image of the man he is set to replace.
A. Aquilani enters the game and replaces R. Montolivo.
The match has entered a bit of a scrappy period, with the injury slowing the pace for the time being. Italy are enjoying the bulk of possession, but Ireland are keeping their shape well at the back, with the midfielders tracking back in support.
Italy sloppily give possession away in midfield and Ireland take the chance to play in attack. Wing backs Coleman and Ward, who love to get forward, join the attack, but Pilkington's final ball is poor and the play fizzles out.
WHAT A CHANCE! Jeff Hendrick does exceptionally well in midfield, sliding a lovely ball through to Long, who is taken down by Sirigu inside the box, but it's called on the offside. Hendrick was taken down late on the play, however, so Oliver brings play back for an Ireland free kick from about 25 yards out.
BRILLIANT STOP BY SIRIGU! Pilkington curls a powerful shot around the wall, and looks to have himself a goal, but Sirigu miraculously soars across to get a hand to the ball and keep it out! Glorious chance for Ireland, but an even better save!
There's been a lovely pace to this match through the opening 25 minutes, but it's starting to slow a bit now. Italy are calming things down, passing it amongst themselves in midfield, while Ireland wait for their opportunity to break on the counter.
FANTASTIC STRIKE BY MEYLER! Some lovely movement in midfield results in yet another chance for Ireland. Passing it beautifully, Meyler gets on the end of a Hoolahan pass, and lets an absolute rocket go from outside the box that Sirigu just tips over the bar. Great play by the Boys in Green.
GREAT PRESSURE! Incredible stuff from Ireland who have the Italian defence in shambles at the moment. Some lovely one-twos outside the area, and a great display of skill from Pilkington to break inside the box, but his shot takes a deflection and goes behind for a corner kick.
Another corner for Ireland! Pilkington, fresh off his Maradona-like display of dribbling, wins another ball and picks out Shane Long on the right. The striker tries to beat Paletta but is forced to settle for a corner. The cross is cleared to Hendrick, who fires from long range, narrowly missing at the far post.
INCHES AWAY FROM THE OPENER! Ireland are pouring it on in waves at the moment! This time it's Ward who gets up from his left-back position and whips in a vicious low cross that Shane Long narrowly misses, sliding in at the near post.
HOW DID LONG MISS THAT!! Aiden McGeady this time races in from the left, beating Paletta with ease, and chipping a cross towards Long at the far post. The Hull City striker has a wide open net in front of him, but directs his header back towards Sirigu, who still makes a fantastic reactionary stop, somehow keeping it out of the net!
Another delay now as Alberto Aquilani seems to be having some trouble with his vision. He pours some water in his eyes on the sidelines, but it's not enough as he's now sitting on the pitch. A second change coming now for Italy with Marco Parolo on to replace him.
This is not to say that the injury was faked by Aquilani, because it looked like he certainly needed to come off, but the brief delay seems to have steadied the waves of pressure Italy were under, as they're now enjoying their best spell of possession in over 10 minutes.
A. Aquilani is done for the day. M. Parolo is his replacement.
Great defending by O'Shea, who just did enough on Immobile to prevent him from bringing down a pass from Verratti and having a shot on target. The Torino striker can't control well enough and it rolls harmlessly behind for a goal kick.
Hendrick has looked real lively in midfield. Another strong move by Ireland, as the ball falls to him outside the area. He does well to wiggle away and find space for a shot, but can't direct his effort on target.
CHANCE FOR IMMOBILE! The Torino forward again gets on the end of a pass, beating Pearce who has had a tough go of things in this first half. Immobile gets behind the last man, but Forde rushes off his line well, giving Serie A's leading scorer little space for a shot.
Five minutes to be added on in this first half with the injuries to Montolivo and Aquilani taking up some significant time.
Another nice spell of possession from the Italians, playing keep-away in midfield. Ireland keeping their shape well, however, refusing to chase the ball, making it very difficult for the Azzurri to find a way through.
Ambitious attempt from Hoolahan. Italy turn it over as a Paletta fails to see a pass that bounces off his back, straight to Wes Hoolahan. The midfielder sees Sirigu off his line and tries to chip the keeper from just across the half-way line, but can't direct his shot on target.
That's all from the first half here at Craven Cottage as we head to the break all knotted up at zeros thanks to some fantastic goalkeeping at both ends.
HALF-TIME: ITALY 0-0 IRELAND. The Azzurri got off to a flying start in the opening 10 minutes, but an injury to Ricardo Montolivo seemed to turn the tides a bit. Ireland poured on the pressure, keeping the Italians on their back heels for an extended period of time, but couldn't find a way past Salvatore Sirigu.
Ireland's decision to switch the sides of wingers Aiden McGeady and Andy Pilkington really helped spring their attack to life. The midfield play of the Boys in Green has proved to be the difference in the first half, with Ireland's creativity and determination giving them the upper hand.
STAT ATTACK: Italy have just one win all-time in their eight friendlies played in London (vs England in 1973), via Opta Statistics.
Italy kick-off and the second half is underway at Craven Cottage. Both sides enjoyed some dominating spells in the first half so we'll see who can take this game over and make it count in the final 45 minutes.
SLOPPY FROM ITALY! Paletta gives the ball away in midfield and Long is sent in behind the defence. He appears to have Bonucci beat, but tries to cut back and send in McGeady. He can't get his ball through, however and the chance goes begging.
TWO GLORIOUS CHANCES FOR IRELAND! This time Motta gives the ball away right at midfield, and Hoolahan starts back the other way. He sends a ball across for Long, with only the keeper to beat, but Sirigu dives across to make the save! Moments later Ireland are back in through Pilkington, who makes a lovely run, cuts into his right and lets fly, missing the far post by a mere inches!
While Italy have looked very underwhelming in the last 30 minutes, Marco Verratti has been a real bright spot in midfield. His timing and composure make him such a great tackler, as he continues to win back the ball for the Italians.
MORE APPEALS FOR A PENALTY! Long continues to get in some great areas behind the defence, but can't seem to finish! This time he's in on a partial break, tries to get around Paletta, but goes to ground. It was a strong challenge from the central defender, and the right decision by Mark Oliver not to give the penalty.
GOAL NOT GIVEN! A lovely break by the Italians, and Rossi is slid in behind the defence. He takes what appears to be a shot, but it goes right to Immobile at the far post who turns it in. Celebrations come to a halt, however, as the flag is up for offside. And that will be it for Immobile this evening.
A. Cassano comes on for C. Immobile.
Italy growing in confidence a bit now. They play around the outside of Ireland's penalty area, and it's worked to Cassano at the far post, but he can't direct his shot on target as Coleman races in to get a vital block.
A. Pilkington is done for the day. J. McClean is his replacement.
JUST OVER THE BAR! Cassano delivers a free kick that's met by Bonucci at the near post. He makes good contact, but the header glances inches over the bar.
De Rossi comes on now for PSG midfielder Thiago Motta. He hasn't been at his best today, and has done himself no favours in hoping for a place in Italy's starting XI at the World Cup.
Thiago Motta is replaced with D. De Rossi.
STAT ATTACK: Italy are five matches without a win, drawing four times during that span. Their last victory came against the Czech Republic in September.
MARCHISIO NEARLY WITH THE OPENER! Italy work the ball forward brilliantly, with a number of one-touch passes. Cassano passes up a shot from close range to cut it back for Marchisio, who puts his shot straight at Forde! It looked to be a sure goal for the Juventus midfielder!
S. Quinn enters the game and replaces W. Hoolahan.
Ireland are back in possession now, generating some pressure of their own. Hendrick with a great run from midfield to keep Italy pinned deep, lays it off for McClean on the left, but his cross is straight at Sirigu and the pressure is relieved.
Giuseppe Rossi gives way now after a very important 70 minutes of work for him. Cerci will come on to replace him, partnering with Cassano up top.
A. Cerci enters play, replacing G. Rossi.
The field has been stretched here, with chances coming at both ends. There's not a single blade of grass that hasn't been used to this point so far. Action all over the place, with some real tireless performances put it by both teams.
S. Long is replaced with S. Cox.
MCGEADY! Wonderful link-up between the newly substituted Cox and McClean, as the cross comes into McGeady at the far post, but he can't get enough power on the header as it's blocked and eventually cleared by Paletta.
SMACKED INTO THE SIDE NETTING! Right back the other way now is Italy as Parolo gets on the end of a pass, but sees his shot from 10 yards out deflected into the side netting. The ensuing corner is poor and Forde comes out to collect. Stoppage in play now as Cerci appears to be in some pain after a coming together with Pearce.
HOW DID THAT STAY OUT!?! Quinn smacks his initial shot off the underside of the bar, getting on the end of a lovely pass by McClean. The rebound falls for Cox who squares it for McGeady from eight yards out, but his low shot is saved incredibly by Sirigu!
Italy seem a bit shell shocked by the offensive potency of the Irish. They're going with a much more patient build-up, trying to slow the tempo and see out the final 10 minutes.
Good pick out by De Rossi who finds Cerci at the far post. The striker heads back for Marchisio, but he blasts his volley well over the bar.
STAT ATTACK: This is the fifth meeting between the two teams in the last five years, with both teams winning once and the other two ending in draws. Their last meeting came in the 2012 Euro Cup, with the Azzurri coming out on top by a score of 2-0.
D. Meyler is done for the day. P. Green is his replacement.
Ireland still pressing for an equalizer. Substitutes Quinn, McClean and Cox linking up well in the attacking third, this time winning Ireland a corner. They've put in some excellent work in attack and really will feel like they deserve a goal.
Darmian comes off now for the Italians, after a very good performance. His work getting forward will certainly give Prandelli a selection headache as he lacks any real definitive options along the right side of defence.
I. Abate comes on for M. Darmian.
Great work by Cox again inside the box, dribbling by a few defenders before sending a cross in. Sirigu remains locked in, however, as he dives down to prevent the cross from getting across the face of goal. Lovely stuff from the Italian keeper.
The board finally indicates there will be three minutes of added time, with one already played.
Into the final minute now as Italy win themselves a corner. It's delivered into the box and Pearce's clearance is less than convincing, forcing Ireland to put it behind for yet another corner. This time it's played in short and worked out to Cerci who sees his left-footed shot sail over the bar. That should just about do it...
FULL-TIME: ITALY 0-0 IRELAND. As far as scoreless draws go, they get a lot worse than this. Both teams with some lovely attacking play, but Forde and Sirigu were up to the task in goal. Ireland will consider themselves unlucky not to have bagged a winner, but will have plenty of positives to draw from the match. As for the Italians, they still have some work to do before they head off, but in less than 24 hours we will know which 23 players Prandelli is taking with him to Brazil!
That's all from me today folks. I'm Alex Moretto and I'd like to thank you all for joining me this evening. Take care!
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