Northern Ireland hold Italy to 0-0 draw
A disappointing result for Italy, a 0-0 draw with plenty of wasted opportunities from the Azzurri. While there were some positives to take from this match, Prandelli really needs to teach his side how to finish off opportunities. The entire team was slightly hesitant, and against a well supported Northern Ireland team in their own stadium, the Azzurri needed to show a bit more fight.
The starting line-up was a strange one from Prandelli, and I think it’s part of why the team didn’t play very well. Viviano was in goal, with Cassani at right back, Bonucci and Chiellini in the middle of defense, and Criscito at left back, so far it seems like a good side. Then in midfield you had De Rossi, Pirlo, and Mauri, again a good mix of players, no criticism from my part. But up front Prandelli decided to go with Cassano, Borriello, and Pepe, and this is where I think the coach made the wrong decision. I’m glad with Cassano and Borriello playing up front, but I’m tired of Pepe, he covers ground with his endurance, but he lacks quality.
The match started cautiously, both sides took their time in trying to see what their opponents were like, and eventually things began to look a little better. Pirlo was the metronome, exchanging with Cassano to create opportunities and confuse the Irish midfield. Both of the fullbacks had great games, with Cassani fighting for every loose ball and providing good crosses, along with Criscito who created one of the best chances for Italy.
On the other hand, Borriello was isolated for the majority of the first half, barely touching the ball and getting involved in the play. And Pepe altogether disappeared for about half an hour, only to be seen when he missed a great chance set up by Criscito. So there were some players on form, and others who were having trouble, but that didn’t really stop this side from creating some chances.
Probably the most notable one was Borriello’s (who began to get more and more involved as the game progressed), one on one with the keeper, but the Roma forward hit it directly at the Irish keeper. Cassano tried to follow up, but his curling shot went wide as he claimed that it was brushed by a defender’s shoulder.
Yet as the match progressed, Northern Ireland became more and more confident, and eventually created a great chance for Healy who flashed his header wide. They would also go on to create a good chance in the final minutes which Viviano did well to save.
Prandelli made some substitutions as the second half wore on, replacing Borriello with Pazzini, Mauri with Marchisio, and finally Pepe with Giuseppe Rossi, but sadly only giving the American-Italian only five minutes of playing time. These substitutions helped, and Italy eventually created another great chance, Cassano curling a pinpoint cross to Pazzini at the far post, and Pazzini hitting it down across goal, with Rossi at the other post unable to tuck the ball in.
It was a disappointing result, and while I could criticize Prandelli along with the players, I’ve come to a strange realization. Maybe this is really the best that our team can do? Maybe these are the best players we have, and they genuinely can’t give anything else?
While there were good things to notice, like Criscito’s maturity along with Cassani’s spirit, there were more negatives than positives in this goalless draw for Italy. Share your thoughts on the Azzurri’s performance below.