Friday, 2 January 2009

[Azzurri] Bari to host Ireland qualifier

The Italian Football Federation has confirmed Bari as the host city for Italy's FIFA World Cup qualifier with the Republic of Ireland on 1 April.

Italy played Scotland in Bari in 2007Rome's Stadio Olimpico had been favourite to host the crucial Group 8 qualifier but appears to have been ruled out because it is due to host the UEFA Champions League final on 27 May.

Other cities including Florence, Genoa, Milan and Naples had also been mooted but the FIGC has now picked Bari's 58,000-capacity Stadio San Nicola.

Italy have played only three internationals at the home of Serie B outfit AS Bari with the first game being the 2-1 win in the third-place match at the 1990 FIFA World Cup finals against England.

In 1997, the Azzurri beat Turkey 5-1 to win the Mediterranean Games final whilst in April 2007, they maintained the perfect winning record by beating Scotland 2-0 in a UEFA Euro 2008 qualifier.

The Irish are likely to have about 15,000 fans travelling for the game in Puglia, which is guaranteed to generate extra interest in the peninsula as former coach Giovanni Trapattoni makes his first return back to his homeland as an opposing boss.

For the preperation to the qualifiers Italy's Marcello Lippi, who broke Vittorio Pozzo's record of 30 consecutive games without defeat as Italy coach and equaled the international record of 31 matches unbeaten - matching the feats of Argentina's Alfio Basile and Javier Clemente of Spain - in a 1-1 friendly draw against Greece in November, next takes his side to London to face Brazil in a mouthwatering friendly test on 10 February.

The 60-year-old World Cup winner - in his second stint on the Azzurri bench - could claim the world record outright in that friendly against the five-time World champions at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium before the serious business of qualifying for South Africa 2010 resumes in the spring.

Italy lead Group 8, three points ahead of Ireland with three wins and a draw and travel to Montenegro for their next qualifier on 28 March before the head-to-head with the Irish in April.

Before they conclude the qualifying campaign in September and October, the reigning World Champions will take part in the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa between 14 and 28 June.

They will play the USA, Egypt and a rematch with Brazil in the group stages of the tournament, which should provide a tantalising appetiser ahead of world football's main course - the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals.

10-02-2009: F - Italy v Brazil (London, England)

28-03-2009: WCQ - Montenegro v Italy (Podgorica)
01-04-2009: WCQ - Italy v Republic of Ireland (Bari)

06-06-2009: F - (TBA)
10-06-2009: F - (TBA)

15-06-2009: CC - USA v Italy (Pretoria, South Africa)
18-06-2009: CC - Egypt v Italy (Johannesburg, South Africa)
21-06-2009: CC - Italy v Brazil (Pretoria, South Africa)

12-08-2009: F - (TBA)

05-09-2009: WCQ - Georgia v Italy (Tbilisi)
09-09-2009: WCQ - Italy v Bulgaria (TBA)

10-10-2009: WCQ - Republic of Ireland v Italy (Dublin)
14-10-2009: WCQ - Italy v Cyprus (TBA)

* The date, fixtures and venues listed above are subject to change. Further friendly matches for 2009 will be announced in due course.

Source: FIGC

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