Edinburgh 25 April 2012
Ciro Ferrara brought his young squad to a very cold Easter Road for a last friendly before they resume their qualifiers next month against Ireland. There were a number of noticeable absentees due to the rescheduling of Serie A fixtures following the tragic death of Piermario Morosini, such as Stephane El Shaarawy and Mattia Destro. However, it is fair to say that their replacements took their chance to shine, playing well in difficult conditions to run out 4-1 winners against Scotland.
Italy started the brighter, and it only took eight minutes for them to take the lead. A free kick on the left was only half-cleared by Scotland to the feet of Donati who crossed in from the right where Florenzi was able to rise above the opposing defenders and power a strong header past the keeper.
The early goal gave the team confidence, and they continued to push forward, creating three fine chances for Immobile including a one-on-one with the keeper that he perhaps should have done better with.
Scotland seemed shell-shocked by the fast start from the Azzurrini and it wasn’t until the half-hour mark that they had their first shot, a powerful low effort from distance. Though that gave Colombi little difficulty, it lifted the Scots, who for the first time began to create a bit of sustained pressure, first hitting the post from a close range shot and then, following a defensive mix-up between the otherwise excellent Verratti and Crescenzi that allowed Scotland to get in behind the defence and cross a low ball to find Mackay-Steven unmarked and able to roll the ball into an empty net. Despite this, Italy continued to press but couldn’t find another goal before the break.
Italy made three changes at half time, and also appeared to come out with a more direct attacking tactic. In the first seconds after kick off, the Azzurrini worked the ball to the left and whipped in a cross that substitute Crimi sought to meet. The Scotland substitute keeper, Adam, came out to collect and came together with Crimi, sustaining a head injury that unfortunately meant he himself had to be substituted.
Despite the delay, once the game restarted, Italy pushed forward immediately, their tactic becoming clear as Verratti and Insigne pulled the strings in midfield playing balls through the middle of a flat defence for the strikers to run on to. That soon led to Immobile being put through and sliding the ball into the far corner of the net. Five minutes later had the ball in the net again, only for it to be ruled out for a very tight offside decision.
Italy were now bossing the game, and there was time for debutant Sansone to see a 30 yard strike beat the keeper but bounce off the crossbar before Insigne made it 3-1 with a perfect free kick into the top right hand corner.
By now the game was over as a contest, and though Scotland substitute Feruz showed a couple of nice touches, there was only one team that was going to score another. Longo was the man to do so, curling in a fine effort from the left hand edge of the box in the 89th minute.
Overall it was a performance that Ferrara and his team can be very proud of, and one that bodes well for the upcoming qualifiers, especially bearing in mind the big names that were missing.
Man of the Match: Lorenzo Insigne
Italy (4-3-3): Colombi 6 (45’ Pinsoglio 6); Donati 6.5 (77’ De Sciglio), Caldirola 6 (45’ Antei 6.5), Capuano 6.5, Crescenzi 6.5,; Rossi 6.5 (45’ Crimi 6), Verratti 7.5, Florenzi 6.5 (77’ Viviani); Sansone 7 (77’ De Luca), Immobile 7 (84’ Longo), Insigne 8
Many thanks to Marco Rinaldi (@MarcoARRinaldi) for writing up this game.