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Wednesday October 17 2012
Italy’s Danish delight

Italy made it three wins from four in World Cup qualifying to consolidate their place at the top of Group B. Luca Cetta looks back on a topsy-turvy 90 minutes in Milan.

As much as Cesare Prandelli looks to instil change in the Azzurri, some things stay the same. As is customary, Italy did not make things easy for themselves at a listless Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on Tuesday. They looked a rabble at the back early on, took the lead, gave Denmark a lifeline after the visitors reduced the deficit and eventually claimed a 3-1 win.

The victory leaves Prandelli’s men in a comfortable position after four matches. Crucially, Italy struck a blow to – on paper – their greatest group adversary. While the Azzurri sit pretty on 10 points, four ahead of Bulgaria, the 1992 European Champions have just two points from three matches.

Prandelli made a number of changes from the Armenia success last Friday, notably defensively. One was forced thanks to Gianluigi Buffon’s injury and his replacement Morgan De Sanctis was kept on his toes at the outset. Denmark repeatedly found gaps and sharper finishing would have put the Azzurri in a spot of bother.

Yet a five minute, two-goal salvo just past the half-hour turned the tide. Riccardo Montolivo and Daniele De Rossi gave Italy a scarcely deserved cushion. William Kvist lashed in a deadly volley right on half-time to give the visitors hope. Then seconds after the restart, Pablo Osvaldo was sent off. The straight red came after a flying arm hit Nicolai Stokholm. Harsh? Perhaps. But it will not sit well with Prandelli.

Cue Mario Balotelli. He looked threatening in patches before the interval but was impeccable after the sending off. Balotelli chased back, won the ball, held it up and earned free kicks. This in addition to the third goal. The Manchester City striker timed his foray into the Danish box perfectly, Andrea Pirlo’s pass was weighted to perfection and Balotelli got his boot to the ball ahead of Stephen Andersen. In his first appearance since the Euro 2012 Final, Balotelli gave one of his finest Azzurri performances. “Mario has to play like this, with this level of generosity. He has the talent,” said Prandelli afterwards.

Captain in place of Buffon, Pirlo led by example. His cross led to De Rossi’s header – the same combination and finish as in Yerevan – before his lofted pass for Balotelli helped settle the result. The 54th minute goal was ever so timely. It could have been a struggle in the second half without a two-goal lead to protect.

On that note, the defence improved after their early struggles. Denmark were frustrated by their inability to find space or a killer final ball. “I saw the spirit of a great team, as with 10 we fought in an organised and determined manner,” exclaimed a jubilant Prandelli. Nicklas Bendtner tussled with club teammates Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini but was busy committing fouls more than anything, while Christian Eriksen only showed glimpses of his talent. It meant De Sanctis had few dramas in the second half, while in possession Italy looked more capable with a man less than at the start.

All in all it equates to two wins from two in the latest round of qualifiers. Nonetheless, there were some areas of concern. The opening 20 minutes saw Italy lack intensity, just as they did for long spells of the Armenia clash and even versus Bulgaria. Prandelli will want to eradicate those sluggish patches which could prove costly in future matches. They cannot use the usual August/early September excuse of limited game-time and will need to pick up the intensity.The tactician admits they can improve.“Are we in Brazil? No. We are a little more relaxed, but still need to improve, as we saw tonight that when an opponent makes it a physical game then we struggle.”

The Azzurri next face Malta in March. After these dual wins, should Italy triumph as expected it will leave them in a fantastic position ahead to qualify from Group B. Brazil lurks ever closer for Prandelli and the squad.

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Have your say...
It was'nt long ago when we were hearing from Lippi what young players" Who"
Prandelli has been drawing from a host of young playersin italy! Italy once again is showing off it's future with many new faces on this squad, Bravo Mr.Prandelli ! As he deserves all the credit for how the team has handled it self since he has taken over! Even against a physically tough Danish side and a man down we held up very well and scored! Italy is on the right path with Prandelli
on the 19th October, 2012 at 2:18am
Italy played well For the most part they had complete control, yes at times there were moments of uncertanty. But what do you expect from a team that keeps changing. As for Osvaldo it was tough luck, if you see the replay the Danish player was pushing from behind. But if you saw the game and how rough the Dainsh were playing you can see why he reacted in that way. Remember as people grow they learn to keep there composure.As these players learn to develop more physically and mentally, watchout!
on the 18th October, 2012 at 4:38pm
Maybe Montolivo can score a few for Milan, now, too.
on the 18th October, 2012 at 12:32pm
Typical of Italy when it counts they show up .
Balotelli had arguably his best game in a blue shirt and Montolivo seems at last to have added consistency to his undoubted ability.
De Rossi and Pirlo showed real experience and class.
Only real dissapointment was Osvaldos irresponsible sending off.
With possibly the stongest new wave of youngsters waiting in the wings
The future is looking a lot brighter for the Azzurri .
on the 18th October, 2012 at 6:27am
poor post. italy was in full control even a man down. they were brilliant. leave your bias at home.
on the 18th October, 2012 at 4:24am
Italia played well considering we had 10-men for 45mins thanks to a sill red-card , should have only been a yellow really. Pirlo was brilliant and yes Mario played an intelligent game - the Azzurri will now win this Group now with ease. FORZA ITALIA !!!
on the 18th October, 2012 at 12:17am
What a poor blog. All your writers seem willing to do is knock The Auzurri and Prandelli. They top the group and beat the second best team in the group 3-1 with ten men in the second half. I watched the match and they looked comfortable 3-1 winners. Yes The Danes had some chances but do you really expect a team like Denmark not to dominate some of the 90 minutes. Super Mario lead the line superbly in the second half and even with 10 men Italy looked destined to take all 3 points. Forza Italia.
on the 17th October, 2012 at 5:28pm
It was a good Italy last night especially in the second half. Prandelli is doing just fine. We want to see the younger Italy in the next two games because they are the future. Balotelli was perfect and hope he will be like this in the future.
on the 17th October, 2012 at 3:53pm
Montolivo played alot smarter than he usually does complements on a good game, but we will see over time as we have before his inconsistence. First time of many attempts he performed superb. idc he still is not a trequartista or the right answer for the azzurri. now everyone thinks he is great which is funny what a joke now prandelli will stick with him the whole way prob. Giovinco is simply embarrassing he sucks. still alot of stuff they need to sharpin up and prandelli needs to see this.
on the 17th October, 2012 at 2:53pm
Was it here that I recently read an article arguing for Pirlo to be pushed out of the national team...?
on the 17th October, 2012 at 1:41pm
By the way, Football Italia should write a blog on the U21's, their efforts and quality should not be ignored.

Forza Azzurrini e tanti auguri
on the 17th October, 2012 at 1:19pm
Much better, but the 4-3-1-2 still leaves us too exposed - had Denmark taken advantage of their chances in the 1st 20 min we could have lost that game easily. But great heart shown in the 2nd half.

Despite having a 3 man midfield, the 4-3-3 seems to b better & therefore the team I'd like to see would be

Buffon

Abate/Santon
Barzagli/Roncaglia
Chiellini/Ogbonna/Ranocchia
Balzaretti/Criscito

De Rossi/Nocerino
Pirlo/Verratti
Marchisio/Montolivo

Cassano/Borini
Balotelli/Osvaldo
Insigne/Giovinco
on the 17th October, 2012 at 1:15pm
Prandelli should start rotating more frequently and trying to adopt to the 4-3-3 with the youngsters. After securing the first place Prandelli should stick to 4-3-3 with Insigne and SES on the flanks.
on the 17th October, 2012 at 12:21pm
Italy should/could have been in trouble with Osvaldos stupid sending off. But Denmark saved him by self-destructing even before kickoff. It is no secret that Denmark have problems at left back. Simon Poulsen is their best choice which says it all. He got injured before kickoff and when called upon Mtiliga refused to play because he wasn't top of the pecking order. Wass played a terrible game vs Bulgaria, so Olsen was left with Michael Silberbauer. He gifted Italy two goals...
on the 17th October, 2012 at 12:16pm
I only saw the second half but even with 10 men, the Azzurri looked like a better team. The Azzurri sat back after going down to 10 men but the Danes lacked ideas and they needed to foul Balotelli to prevent a larger defeat. If Osvaldo didn't elbow Stockholm, there could have been more goals.
on the 17th October, 2012 at 11:28am
Where was the younger Italy? They were on the bench....perhaps Verratti, El-Sharraway and Destro could learn more by leading and being decisive and winning games with the U-21 team as opposed to sitting on the bench. I remember the great Pirlo & Co domianting and winning the U-21 tournament before stepping up to senior level. It is a great foundation for future success.

Well done Prandelli and well done Balotelli. But most of all, well done Pirlo, who as we all know is now a living legend.
on the 17th October, 2012 at 10:59am

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