Tuesday, 25 March 2008

[U21 Qual] Rossi keeps Azzurrini rolling

Giuseppe Rossi scored twice as Italy made it seven wins out of eight in the 2009 UEFA European Under-21 qualifying Group 1 with victory over Azerbaijan.

The Villarreal forward struck 18 minutes into each half as the group leaders dominated the bottom team in Baku.

Sebastian Giovinco created both goals, with the Empoli playmaker conjuring the breakthrough by playing a one-two with Robert Acquafresca before providing an easy finish for Rossi.

But the Azzurrini didn't have things all their own way. With German coach Bernhard Lippert making his debut at the Azerbaijan helm, the hosts responded well to the setback of falling behind, with winger Asif Mammadov and striker Vagif Dzavadov catching the eye.

Pierluigi Casiraghi's men continued to hold sway in midfield, however, and Giovinco drew the second-half foul from goalkeeper Osman Umarov which signalled the end of the contest as Rossi confidently converted a 63rd-minute penalty.

Giovinco might have scored himself later, while Vugar Nadyrov came closest for the hosts when he narrowly failed to convert a dangerous cross.

The victory keeps Italy on top of Group 1 with 22 points after eight games, and a win in their penultimate game against Greece or in their final game against Croatia in September will secure a spot in the play-offs.

Each group winner, as well as the four highest ranked second place teams in the ten qualifying groups, will advance to the play-offs. The play-offs will determine which seven nations join hosts Sweden in the final tournament in June 2009.

But before the concluding double header, Casiraghi can now fully concentrate on the "Under-23" squad that will represent Italy at the Beijing Olympic Games in August.

Group 1 Results:
Tuesday 25 March
Azerbaijan 0-2 Italy

Group 1 Standings:
[1] ITA - PLD: 08 - PTS: 22
[2] CRO - PLD: 08 - PTS: 18
[3] GRE - PLD: 07 - PTS: 13
[4] ALB - PLD: 07 - PTS: 10
[5] FAR - PLD: 08 - PTS: 03
[6] AZE - PLD: 08 - PTS: 01

Group 1 Fixtures:
Wednesday 20 August
Albania v Greece
Friday 5 September
Croatia v Albania
Italy v Greece
Saturday 6 September
Azerbaijan v Faroe Islands

Source: UEFA

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