Armenia vs. Italy  1 - 3


Italy critics irk Prandelli

13 October 2012 20:23

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has defended his side following media criticism of their performance against Armenia.

Prandelli was pleased with Friday's 3-1 World Cup qualifying win in Yerevan but the Italian press felt otherwise.

"The newspapers make it look as if we didn't put in a good performance, but that certainly didn't seem to be the case to me," Prandelli told reporters.

"We are coming off the back of the Euro 2012 final and because of that some people think we ought to win every match 3-0."

Midfielder Claudio Marchisio also believed that his side's performance in Armenia was strong and went on to suggest that the media may have underestimated the strength of Italy's opponents.

"(The match) against Armenia was a very important victory," he said.

"I'm sure the teams they play in the near future will find it difficult. Armenia is not a team that should be underestimated."

Italy star Mario Balotelli missed the game through illness but Prandelli suggested that the Manchester City striker could return for Tuesday's qualifier at home to Denmark.

"Mario had a very strong cough in Armenia and was struggling to breathe, so he was in no condition to play. If he is in good shape today, then he will train with the others," Prandelli said.


Prandelli happy with tough Armenia win

13 October 2012 02:40

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said he was satisfied with his side's hard-fought 3-1 victory over Armenia on Friday night.

The Azzurri took the lead through Andrea Pirlo but Henrik Mkhitaryan levelled the scores before second-half goals from Daniele De Rossi and Pablo Osvaldo ensured three points for the Euro 2012 finalists.

Prandelli said his team did struggle at times against their unfancied opposition but also felt they deserved credit for battling it out and ultimately producing a valuable World Cup qualifying win on Armenian soil.

"We struggled to get things going at times, but overall I'm satisfied," Prandelli told reporters after the match.

"I can't say this enough: this is a tough group. But we played a great game and showed some character."

Prandelli's side face Denmark on Tuesday and sit top of Group B after three games, on seven points after wins over Malta and Armenia and a draw against Bulgaria.

The Italian coach also complained about the Armenian goal, after Mkhitaryan levelled proceedings following a clash of heads between Christian Maggio and Davit Manoyan.

"When two players collide heads, you stop play. The referee didn't do it and that's why I protested," Prandelli said.


World Cup qualifying: Armenia 1 Italy 3

12 October 2012 21:49

Italy have claimed a hard-fought 3-1 victory over Armenia during their World Cup qualifier at the Hrazdan Stadium on Friday night.

The scoreline may have flattered the Azzurri, however, as they were given a serious run for their money by Armenia who were level at the break after Henrick Mkhitaryam cancelled out Andrea Pirlo's opener.

But second-half goals from Daniele De Rossi and Pablo Osvaldo ensured Italy took maximum points as they remain unbeaten in World Cup qualifying so far, topping the Group B table.

Italy found themselves ahead after only 11 minutes, as Hrayr Mkoyan's handball in the box was spotted, giving Pirlo the chance to step up and send Roman Berezovskiy the wrong way from the spot.

But what threatened to be a walk in the park for the visitors never materialised as Armenia fought their way back creating chances through Aras Ozbiliz and Artak Yedigaryan.

Armenia's endeavour was rewarded in the 27th minute as they drew level following an Italian defensive mix-up.

As Christian Maggio failed to clear effectively, Shakhtar midfielder Mkhitaryam pounced on the ball and beat Andrea Barzagli's challenge before firing home past Gianluigi Buffon.

Armenia pressed for a second but Italy gradually regained their poise and finished the half the stronger side.

But the hosts refused to bow down and stepped up their attack once again following the restart as Yedigaryan saw his goal-bound effort cleared off the line Domonico Criscito.

Buffon was then forced into a quality save as he denied Davit Manoyan before having to block a powerful strike from Yura Movsisyan as the Armenians seriously took the game to their opponents.

But just when it looked like Armenia's pressure would tell once again, De Rossi stepped up to send the Azzurri back in front, completely against the run of play.

Pirlo was the architect, bending a glorious cross right onto the head of the Roma vice-captain, who could hardly miss from six yards out, crashing his header in off the crossbar.

Not long after Yura Movsisyan found himself in a good position to level the scores once again, but some good Italian defensive work prevented him having his chance, with the missed opportunity proving costly for Armenia as Italy doubled their advantage eight minutes from time.

This time De Rossi's free kick was met by Osvaldo, who guided a header expertly into the far corner to give Italy the breathing space they so desperately needed.

The result leaves Armenia with just one win in the qualifying campaign so far.


Prandelli cautions against complacency

12 October 2012 13:56

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has warned his men not to underestimate Armenia in their 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier on Friday.

Italy were held to a 2-2 draw by Bulgaria in their last qualification game, and Prandelli has stressed they cannot afford to make the same mistakes again.

"I am waiting to see an Italy side alive to the fact that the stakes are high. We have to play at a high rhythm against Armenia in order to make the most of our qualities," Prandelli said.

"I'm sure we won't make the same mistakes as we did in September, but against Armenia we have to have commitment, because it will be a hard, physical encounter.

"We must respect the opposition, and play with the intensity the game deserves. Armenia are a developing football nation and shouldn't be underestimated."

Italy are joint top of the Group B in UEFA qualifying, level with Bulgaria on four points, one point ahead of second-placed Armenia.


World Cup qualifying preview: Armenia v Italy

12 October 2012 09:56

Italy head to Armenia for their 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier on Friday looking to take command of Group B.

Cesare Prandelli has recalled Manchester City firebrand Mario Balotelli, while defender Domenico Criscito is included for the first time since he was omitted from the Euro 2012 squad following his investigation for over alleged match-fixing.

Balotelli was absent from Italy's 2-2 draw in Bulgaria and 2-0 defeat of Moldova after undergoing eye surgery in September and his mentality has previously been questioned by Prandelli.

"It upset me that he had the operation while there were international games, but I still decided to call him up as he has talent," Prandelli told Football Italia.

"He must awaken the pride in himself and demonstrate attachment to the jersey for his sake and that of the national side."

Prandelli insisted the international futures of veteran attackers Antonio Di Natale and Antonio Cassano were not over despite again opting for youth.

The coach showed his willingness to promote his youngsters, with Under-21 stars Stephan El Shaarawy of AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain's Marco Verratti selected.

Worryingly, the Italians were thoroughly outplayed by Bulgaria in their first fixture but were rescued by Pablo Daniel Osvaldo, who scored twice with his side's only two shots on target.

Osvaldo, along with team-mate Daniele De Rossi, were dropped by Roma coach Zdenek Zeman on Sunday but could both still start for Italy.

Prandelli has shown his willingness to tweak the system and given his commitment to a pro-youth policy will be pleased if they can register two wins and a draw from their first three fixtures, two of which will have been on the road.

Armenia are third with three points, having defeated Malta, but an away win for Italy would put them firmly in charge.