Friday, 30 May 2008

[Euro 2008] Di Natale brace puts Azzurri in right mood

Antonio Di Natale scored two goals in the first half and Mauro Camoranesi added another in the second as Italy defeated Belgium in Florence in their last friendly game ahead of UEFA Euro 2008.

ITALY 3-1 BELGIUM
Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence
Di Natale opened the scoring before the ten-minute mark and made it two just before the break. He was then replaced but Camoranesi did not take long to make it three. Second-half substitute Wesley Sonck headed in a corner to grab a consolation but the World champions are looking in good shape for their Group C opener against Belgium's neighbours, the Netherlands on 9 June.


After a minute's silence to mourn former Belgium striker Francois Sterchele, who died in a car accident earlier this month, Italy started well and carved out the first opening. Christian Panucci headed just wide following a centre from the right by Camoranesi, but a minute later the Azzurri were back for more. This time, Andrea Pirlo dribbled past S├ębastien Pocognoli with a series of tricks before crossing to the far post for Di Natale, whose perfect right-footed volley gave Belgium goalkeeper Stijn Stijnen no chance.

Azzurri coach Roberto Donadoni was fielding a 4-3-3 formation with Luca Toni, Di Natale and Camoranesi in attack, while Alberto Aquilani was the surprise inclusion in midfield alongside Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso. Together, they continued to control the game without much fuss and four minutes from the break they made it two, as Belgium lost possession and Aquilani immediately found Di Natale on the box. The Udinese man drilled in his second with a precise low shot.

During half-time, Donadoni replaced Di Natale with Serie A top-scorer Alessandro Del Piero, while also sending Giorgio Chiellini and Fabio Grosso on for Panucci and Fabio Cannavaro. That meant the captain's armband went to Gianluigi Buffon, but the Italy goalkeeper remained very much a spectator as his team went three up four minutes after the restart. Del Piero served his Juventus team-mate Camoranesi with a fine pass on the right and the winger sent his effort between Stijnen's legs and into the bottom of the net.

Donadoni also gave Antonio Cassano and Marco Borriello some playing time, with the latter missing a glorious opportunity to make it four when presented with an open goal by Gianluca Zambrotta's pass from the right channel. There was still time for another goal, but it came at the other end from Sonck.

Italy: Buffon, Panucci (Grosso 46), Cannavaro (Chiellini 46), Barzagli, Zambrotta, Gattuso, Pirlo, Aquilani (Ambrosini 75), Camoranesi (Cassano 61), Di Natale (Del Piero 46), Toni (Borriello 75).
Belgium: Stijnen, Hoefkens (Swertz 46), Kompany, Vertonghen, Pocognoli (Huysegems 83), Witsen (Gillet 70), Simons, Fellaini, Defour (Sonck 58), Mudingayi, Dembele (Mirallas 58).

[Match Report] - [Azzurri Reaction] - [Euro 2008 Rivals]

Source: UEFA

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