Tuesday, 14 October 2008

[U21 Play-off] Casiraghi's ultimate Tel Aviv test

Italy Under-21 coach Pierluigi Casiraghi is well aware he'll face the sack if his side don't beat Israel to qualify for the 2009 European Championship finals.

Pierluigi Casiraghi - under pressureThe goalless draw in the first leg in Ancona on Saturday leaves the play-off tie hanging in the balance and, after an early exit from the Beijing Olympic Games this summer, Casiraghi cannot afford another embarrassing slip-up.

"Let me at least play this game first…" he said at the pre-match press conference when asked about his chances of getting the axe.

Although Italy didn't score in the home match at the weekend, the clean sheet could be vital as away goals count, and therefore a score draw on Wednesday night in Israel will see the five-time European champions through to Sweden.

"We knew Israel would be tough opponents because they caused problems for Germany in the group and they never give up," Casiraghi said.

"I am sure this game won't be much different from the first leg – they won't attack too much – but now my players have to show the right spirit if they want to go to Sweden next summer."

But the Azzurrini will face the trip to Tel Aviv without six first team regulars. Daniele Dessena, Sebastian Giovinco and Claudio Marchisio are all suspended, Marco Andreolli picked up an injury in the first leg, while Giuseppe Rossi and Fabiano Santacroce were promoted to Marcello Lippi's senior squad.

Casiraghi has had to call up striker Davide Di Gennaro, midfielder Davide Bottone, and defenders Matteo Rubin and Daniele Capelli as replacements.

"We must look at who is left and put together the best possible line-up," continued Casiraghi.

"Mario Balotelli is back and I hope Paolo De Ceglie will be, too. Balotelli can give a massive boost with his enthusiasm and technical gifts. He just needs to do what he knows he can do."

Inter striking prodigy Balotelli missed the first match with a flu virus, but the real problems are in midfield, where two of the usual three starters are out of action.

Piermario Morosini and Francesco Bolzoni are an option, or they could switch to a 4-4-2 system with De Ceglie, who is recovering from a sprained ankle, pushed up and Ignazio Abate on the right flank.

Whatever team Casiraghi fields, he knows that anything less than qualification at the end of the night would see him face a tough reaction from the fans, press and his bosses at the Federation.

2009 UEFA Euro U21 Championship Play-off First leg
Friday 10 October
Austria 2-1 Finland
Germany 1-1 France
Turkey 1-0 Belarus
Wales 2-3 England
Saturday 11 October
Denmark 0-1 Serbia
Italy 0-0 Israel
Switzerland 2-1 Spain

2009 UEFA Euro U21 Championship Play-off Second leg
Tuesday 14 October
Belarus 2-0 Turkey (Agg: 2-1)
England 2-2 Wales (Agg: 5-4)
Finland 2-1 Austria (Agg: 3-3, Pens: 4-2)
Spain 3-1 Switzerland AET (Agg: 4-3)
Wednesday 15 October
France v Germany (1800)
Israel v Italy (1815)
Serbia v Denmark (1700)

Source: C4 Football Italia

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