Italy vs. Northern Ireland  3 - 0

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Euro 2012 qualifying: Italy 3 Northern Ireland 0

11 October 2011 23:33

Antonio Cassano's brace helped Italy beat Northern Ireland 3-0, ensuring Cesare Prandelli's side finished the Euro 2012 qualifiers undefeated.

Having already clinched top spot of Group C, Italy finished their campaign with polish at the Stadio Adriatico in Pescara to ensure Northern Ireland limped meekly out of qualifying.

Tuesday's match began slowly, with the only real attempt on goal coming from Sebastian Giovinco.

The crafty Parma attacking midfielder picked up the ball on the edge of the box, but his effort was held comfortably by Northern Ireland goalkeeper Maik Taylor.

The encounter eventually opened up and the away side began to push Italy, with goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon being forced into action to deny Andrew Little before having to rush off his line to clear the danger after a terrible back pass from Andrea Barzagli.

Prandelli’s side should have taken the lead shortly before the break when a Giovinco corner found a stretching Giorgio Chiellini at the box post, but the Juventus man barely made contact with ball as it flew past the goal.

Minutes later, Italy did get their goal through a fantastic finish from Antonio Cassano.

A superb ball from Daniele De Rossi found the AC Milan striker inside the box, and his first-time volley left Taylor with no chance as it smashed into the bottom corner.

Cassano doubled his tally in the 52nd minute Cassano with another great finish. The former Sampdoria forward raced onto a neat ball from Alberto Aquilani before smashing in a low drive from the edge of the box.

With fifteen minutes to go, the hosts made it 3-0 with a rather fortunate own-goal when a perfectly weighted chip from Andrea Pirlo found Balzaretti, who dragged the ball across the goal for Gareth McAuley to steer into his own net.

This result means Italy finished the qualifying stages unbeaten and will go onto next year's tournament in Poland and the Ukraine in a confident mood, while Northern Ireland's loss was a disappointing end to the reign of departing manager Nigel Worthington.

Article

Prandelli looks for improvement

11 October 2011 11:29

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli says his side are targeting a dominant performance against Northern Ireland in their final Euro 2012 qualifier.

The 2006 World Cup winners host Nigel Worthington's side in Pescara on Tuesday having already done enough to reach next year's finals on Poland and Ukraine.

In contrast, Worthington announced on Monday he would resign from his post after the Italy match following a disappointing qualifying campaign.

Prandelli has made several changes to the team that played in Belgrade last week, and said the game would be an opportunity for the players to prove their worth.

"Every time we play we are committed to playing good football, keeping the ball more than our opponents and working on things that we need to improve on," Prandelli said.

"It's difficult to know if it will be an enjoyable game - that is often influenced by the result and other factors. Mentally we always want to go on the pitch and play a good match and that's what we'll try to do tomorrow."

Italy drew 1-1 with Serbia in their penultimate qualifying game on Friday and sit top of Group C by seven points.

They will be confident of beating the Northern Irish at home, having lost only one of their last 14 games.

"It's useless to tell them it will be a decisive match for their future, it won't," Prandelli admitted.

"They are aware that each match is important to prove that they are a strong national team. I've been impressed by the guys who have played up to now, therefore I expect a further positive reaction from them tomorrow."

"I'm only thinking about tomorrow's match. We played really well in our last match so it would be easy for them to put in less effort."

"But I think one match at a time. I would like to see the fans applauding us at the end of the match, because if that happens it means our performance was good, regardless of the final result."

Article

Cassano treading fine line for Italy

11 October 2011 03:59

The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) has urged forward Antonio Cassano to clean up his act after his latest transgression.

The AC Milan striker was forced to apologise before Italy's Euro 2012 qualifier against Serbia on Friday after a run-in with a Corriere dello Sport reporter.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli played down the trouble and allowed Cassano to play in the 1-1 draw in Serbia.

However, FIGC president Giancarlo Abete appears less lenient, perhaps indicating that his patience of the temperamental player is beginning to wear thin.

He issued another warning to 29-year-old Cassano - who has courted controversy throughout his career for both club and country - and is hoping he changes his ways.

"The latest incident where he insulted the journalist was bad, but we apologised within hours of the trouble," Abete told Radio Rai.

"Cassano must not commit these errors any more with the national team as they create problems for the coach who has invested a lot of effort in him."

"I hope the journalist incident was really the last."

Italy meet Northern Ireland in their final Euro 2012 Group C clash on Tuesday in Pescara.

Italy are already through to next year's finals in Poland and the Ukraine, having stitched up top spot on the table with two games to spare.

Cassano is expected to start the game alongside Parma forward Sebastian Giovinco.

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Giovinco determined to put best foot forward

10 October 2011 22:41

Sebastian Giovinco is ready to lead from the front after learning he will start Italy's final Euro 2012 qualifier against Northern Ireland.

The 24-year-old Parma forward, who is co-owned by Juventus, will start alongside AC Milan's Antonio Cassano in Pescara on Tuesday.

Italy are already assured a place in Poland and the Ukraine, but Giovinco is in no mood to relax.

"I am very happy to be starting the game, but I am not full of emotion at the moment," Giovinco said.

"However, I like playing as a second striker and I hope to give my contribution to the national team."

Five goals in four Serie A games for Parma have many noticing the player's positive performances this term, but Giovinco would not be drawn on speculation regarding a potential return to Juventus.

"Will I go back to Juventus? For now I am living a magical moment, but if they look for me in future then I will think about it," he said.

Italy are undefeated in nine qualifying matches this campaign and lead Group C with 23 points, seve clear of second-placed Estonia.

Article

Euro 2012 qualifying preview: Italy v Northern Ireland

10 October 2011 07:08

Northern Ireland's Euro 2012 hopes may be over, but Nigel Worthington's men are not taking Tuesday's match against Italy in Pescara lightly.

Italy have already secured their passage to next year's finals in Poland and Ukraine, comfortably sitting on top of Group C, seven points clear of second-placed Estonia.

In contrast, Worthington's side are in fifth place, out of contention for a play-off spot and coming off a 2-1 loss to Estonia in Belfast last week.

Despite the match having little bearing on the group standings, both sides will be keen to end their qualifying campaigns on a high, with Italy coach Cesare Prandelli saying it was too early for his side to get ahead of themselves.

"There's too many compliments, too much enthusiasm,'' Prandelli said. ''Criticism would be better now."

"If I have a good point, it's that of having instilled enthusiasm into the players and given them the conviction that they can play football in this way."

"Everyone says that a national team can't have the same identity as a club side. But we want to surprise everyone and surprise ourselves with our game."

Claudio Marchisio is expected to recover from a knock to his ankle suffered in Friday's 1-1 draw with Serbia, but the absence of strikers Mario Balotelli and Giampaolo Pazzini could see Pablo Osvaldo handed his international debut.

Worthington has selection headaches of his own, with midfielders Chris Brunt (ankle) and Sammy Clingan (back) both ruled out.

Rangers striker Kyle Lafferty is suspended for the match, while goalkeeper Lee Camp and midfielder Grant McCann have been forced out with groin trouble.