26 June, 2006

Vengeance: Italy 1 Australia 0

Italy have lacked consistency while Australia have impressed, so this match is no foregone conclusion. Thoughts of the 2002 defeat by South Korea, with Guus Hiddink in the dugout, will be prominent in Italian fans' minds as their nemesis faces them with his latest charges.

The first few minutes are cagey, and Jon Champion is reduced to describing Hiddink's "ever-so-slightly crumpled" appearance instead of talking about the football. The first real chance comes on 20 minutes when Alberto Gilardino hurls himself into the air, striking the ball well but too close to Mark Schwarzer who pushes it over the bar. Two minutes later Luca Toni turns in the box to blast one in but Schwarzer is again equal to it, saving with his legs.

Australia are having more possession, but it takes half an hour of play before Buffon is made to work in the Italian goal, Scott Chipperfield shooting straight at him from close range. The Australians are let off when Toni heads over in front of the goal.

Italy are starting to take control and are wearing down Australia's defence, but they can't yet find a way through. Five minutes into the second half Marco Bresciano makes a run for Australia and is brought down near the box by Marco Materazzi. The red card is brandished and once again we have a match of eleven against ten. Bresciano takes the free kick himself but fires wide.

The difference is not overly apparent. Australia certainly have more of the game but they lack penetration and at the other end the Italian attacks continue to pose a threat. Tim Cahill gets a good chance in the box but heads over the bar, but otherwise Australia find it difficult to get at the Italian goal.

With ten minutes remaining John Aloisi is brought on to strengthen the Australian attack. The Italian challenge is fading as they are forced to defend heavily. In the 90th minute Australia have an optimistic penalty appeal turned down, then in injury time Lucas Neill and Aloisi run into a wall of defenders at the edge of the box.

In the last seconds of the match Fabio Grosso goes down in the area after tripping over Neill's prostrate body. The referee awards a penalty that will be the last kick of the game. Francesco Totti steps up and places it well.

It is arguably a harsh decision that has defeated Australia, but the Italian defence have been solid throughout the game and this has been the critical factor. The Australians have acquitted themselves well, however, and will no doubt be back for another attempt in the future.


Rish said...

I think the ref evened it up as it was a harsh red card and also a harsh penalty. But if you will go diving into challenges...

Italy have had two of the players of the tournament in Pirlo and Cannavaro - that is good enough for me (for now at least). I think they may be a force to be reckoned with.

Baz said...

i thought the red card was entirely fair as was the penalty. if the defender hadn't missed his tackle entirely he wouldn't have impeded the attacker. simple.

Nik said...

Don't come to Australia and say that - you'll be lynched - they're carrying on like the English did after the Hand of God

Baz said...

One bloke on Radio 5 said "my soul is crumbling". To which the presenter replied "they even whinge better than us"


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