Italy beats Estonia 3-0 in Euro 2012 qualifier
Italy performed at its best amid scandal again, cruising to a
3-0 win over Estonia on Friday to maintain a five-point lead in its
European Championship qualifying group.
United States-born forward Giuseppe Rossi put Italy in front in
the 21st minute at the Alberto Braglia stadium after being set by
Cassano, who doubled the lead in the 39th from a Riccardo Montolivo
Giampaolo Pazzini added a third goal by finishing off a
counterattack in the 68th, and Rossi and Andrea Pirlo also hit the
post in a dazzling display from the Azzurri.
”We really wanted to control the game and I think we also
played good football,” Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said.
The match came three days after the latest match-fixing scandal
to rock the national sport resulted in 16 arrests up and down
Italy, with numerous more under investigation for allegedly
”From this morning on we focused explicitly on the match,”
Prandelli said. ”We tried to block everything else out and we came
out onto the pitch with a lot of enthusiasm.”
Italy won the 2006 World Cup at the height of the previous major
match-fixing scandal, and the Azzurri won the 1982 title in the
wake of a widespread betting scandal much like the one that
surfaced this week.
Italy midfielder Daniele De Rossi was linked to the latest
scandal in Italian media earlier Friday, but the prosecutor in
Cremona leading the investigation quickly announced that the Roma
player was not involved.
While De Rossi was not in the squad for this match, the news was
not taken lightly by his teammates.
”Just because he’s such a big name they wanted to put him on
the front page. Sometimes it’s a lack of respect,” goalkeeper
Gianluigi Buffon said.
Italy is five points ahead of Slovenia in Group C, with Serbia
eight points back and Estonia nine points behind.
The Azzurri have now won five of their six qualifiers, with
their only hiccup a 0-0 draw at Northern Ireland in October –
showing Italy has regained some of its swagger after an
embarrassing first-round elimination from the World Cup.
Rossi was one of the last to be cut by former coach Marcello
Lippi from Italy’s squad in South Africa last year and he responded
by scoring 32 goals for Villarreal in all competitions in the
season that ended last month – prompting speculation he could be
headed to European champion Barcelona.
”He has really become a reference point for us,” Prandelli
said. ”He realizes what he’s capable of now. He knows how to play
with his teammates and he really moves well in the area. He’s got a
lot of talent.”
Alberto Aquilani directed Cassano and Rossi in Italy’s 4-3-1-2
formation, while Estonia responded with a traditional 4-4-2
spearheaded by Tarmo Kink and Sergei Zenjov.
Italy immediately took control but Cassano wasted two early
opportunities, shooting directly at the goalkeeper in both the
seventh and 13th minutes – with the second coming from an excellent
set up by Rossi, who then nearly scored with a header from the
ensuing corner in the 14th.
Five minutes later, Rossi collected an excellent through ball
but had his shot blocked by Estonia goalkeeper Sergei Pareiko.
Shortly after Rossi’s goal, Aquilani walked off with a head
injury and was replaced by Palermo’s Antonio Nocerino, prompting
Prandelli to move Montolivo into the playmaker position.
Kink had a rare shot on goal for Estonia in the 20th but it was
controlled easily by Buffon.
Rossi’s shot off the post came in the 30th, while Pirlo found
the goalframe from a free kick in the 66th.
Cassano and Rossi both exited to standing ovations when they
were substituted during the second half.
Italy next faces Ireland in a friendly in Liege, Belgium, on
Tuesday, while Estonia visits the Faeroe Islands for another
Italy: Gianluigi Buffon, Christian Maggio, Giorgio Chiellini,
Andrea Ranocchia, Federico Balzaretti, Riccardo Montolivo, Andrea
Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Alberto Aquilani (Antonio Nocerino, 24),
Antonio Cassano (Giampaolo Pazzini, 65), Giuseppe Rossi (Sebastian
Estonia: Sergei Pareiko, Enar Jaager, Taavi Rahn, Raio Piiroja,
Taijo Teniste (Kaimar Saag, 58), Sander Puri, Martin Vunk, Ragnar
Klavan, Dmitri Kruglov, Tarmo Kink (Gert Kams, 79), Sergei Zenjov
(Jarmo Ahjupera, 58).