Wednesday, 13 August 2008

[Olympics] Italy end group stage with draw

Italy knew coming into Wednesday's final Group D match in Tianjin against Cameroon that a draw would see them finish top of the group and avoid Brazil in the quarter-finals.

Cameroon 0-0 ItalyAnd after a first half of attack and creativity, the second degenerated into something of a non-aggression pact with both sides happy to share the spoils and move on.

The early exchanges were dominated by the creative energies of the newest big thing in Italian football, 20-year-old fantasista Sebastian Giovinco. His elegant first touch, dribbling and wonderful distribution had the Azzurri looking dangerous throughout the first half.

Despite the diminutive playmaker's best efforts it was the talented and physical Africans who had the opening period's best chance when, after 14 minutes, Salvatore Bocchetti of Genoa was adjudged to have handled inside his own penalty area.

Aurelien Chedjou then stepped up to take the spot kick only to be denied by Emiliano Viviano, who guessed right to palm away the tame effort.

The Italians, with a raft of changes from their last game against South Korea, benefitted next from a bit of Cameroonian indiscipline when a rough tackle on Italy captain Antonio Nocerino saw Georges Mandjeck pick up a straight red on the half-hour mark.

Cameroon 0-0 ItalyPierluigi Casiraghi's side then nearly capitalised ten minutes from the interval after a bit of good wing play from Lorenzo De Silvestri, but Giuseppe Rossi had his shot blocked and Robert Acquafresca failed to convert the second attempt.

With Korea needing a hatful of goals against Honduras in the Group's other game, both the Italians and the Cameroonians seemed happy enough to settle for a draw, which would take Italy through as group winners and Cameroon through as runners-up.

The 0-0 stalemate sees Italy meet Belgium in Beijing, and Cameroon line up against Brazil in Shenyang in their respective quarter-finals on Saturday.

Italy: Viviano, De Silvestri, Coda, Bocchetti, De Ceglie, Dessena (Cigarini 60), Nocerino, Montolivo, Rossi, Giovinco (Candreva 88), Acquafresca (Abate 71).

Pierluigi Casiraghi (Italy coach): "It was a very difficult game for us tonight, due in no small measure to the condition of the pitch. It was in very bad shape and it made things very hard for us in putting together passes. This was a much tougher game than either of our previous ones and Cameroon pressed us all the way. In the end, we were not settling for a draw. But with three matches in one week I think the boys were just a little bit tired near the end."

Daniele Dessena (Italy midfielder): "I was thrilled to be out on the pitch from the start. It was a very difficult contest and we tried to find a way past the Cameroon team, but they are very strong and made it very hard for us."

New Zealand 0-1 BelgiumMATCHDAY 3 RESULTS
Wednesday August 13
Group A:
Ivory Coast 1-0 Australia
Argentina 2-0 Serbia
Group B:
Netherlands 1-0 Japan
Nigeria 2-1 USA
Group C:
China 0-3 Brazil
New Zealand 0-1 Belgium
Group D:
South Korea 1-0 Honduras
Cameroon 0-0 Italy


Source: FIFA

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