Friday, 1 June 2007

[U21 Qual] Azzurrini's perfect start for 2009

Pierluigi Casiraghi's new Under-21 side got off to a glittering start to their 2009 UEFA European Under-21 qualifying campaign, crushing Albania 4-0 in Group 1.

The Azzurrini began their next two-year circle while the 'old' squad is still preparing for the 2007 Championships in the Netherlands later this month.

Casiraghi fielded an all-attack 4-3-3 system at the Stadio Ettore Manucci with Giuseppe Rossi and Juventus starlet Sebastian Giovinco supporting Robert Acquafresca.

The first goal for the next generation was netted by Treviso's Acquafresca, who got the final touch to Daniele Dessena's cut-back from six yards. There were two desperate goalline clearances from the Albanians, but they could not stop a splendid strike from Dessena to make it 2-0.

Genoa defender Domenico Criscito has made a name for himself in Serie B and will return to Juventus next season. He sealed the 3-0 going into half-time with a fortunate angled drive that squirmed under the body of the Albanian goalkeeper.

Xhevair Sukaj's shot off target was really the visitors' only attempt in a first half that was utterly dominated by the hosts.

Giovinco shone in his role supporting the centre-forward and brought a tough save out of Samir Ujkani straight after the restart, as well as firing just over and setting up several good chances. The fourth goal arrived eight minutes from time and once again the Juve jewel was involved. His assist sparked a classic counter-attack for Fiorentina's new signing Arturo Lupoli.

Only in the final moments did Albania go anywhere close to troubling Andrea Consigli with a Gilman Lika free kick and deflected effort from the same player.

Casiraghi can now lead the five-time European champions to the 2007 Finals which begin on June 10.

Group 1 Results:
Friday 1 June
Italy 4-0 Albania
Saturday 2 June
Croatia 2-0 Faroe Islands
Greece 4-1 Azerbaijan

Group 1 Standings:
[1] ITA - PLD: 01 - PTS: 03
[2] GRE - PLD: 01 - PTS: 03
[3] CRO - PLD: 01 - PTS: 03
[4] FAR - PLD: 01 - PTS: 00
[5] AZE - PLD: 01 - PTS: 00
[6] ALB - PLD: 01 - PTS: 00

Group 1 Fixtures:
Wednesday 6 June
Croatia v Greece
Albania v Faroe Islands
Friday 7 September
Italy v Faroe Islands
Saturday 8 September
Albania v Croatia
Azerbaijan v Greece

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