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1 June 2012
• Stadion Letzigrund, Zürich
Referee: N. Hänni
• Attendance: 19032
A. Kerzhakov 60'
R. Shirokov 75', 89'
FULL-TIME: ITALY 0-3 RUSSIA. A brace of goals from Roman Shirokov, following two dreadful errors from Christian Maggio, and a well-taken strike from Aleksandr Kerzhakov handed Russia a resounding 3-0 victory at the Stadion Letzigrund. Dick Advocaat will be delighted with his side's performance tonight, while Cesare Prandelli will be cursing his team's defensive errors and wasteful finishing. Worrying signs for Italy ahead of the Euros next week... Thanks for joining me for Goal.com's LIVE coverage of the match tonight. Good night.
The referee blows the final whistle here in Zurich to end Italy's torment.
Goal Roman Shirokov
SHIROKOV NETS ANOTHER!!! 3-0 TO RUSSIA!! More slack defending from Prandelli's side. Kokorin sends a swerving pass along the floor towards Shirokov at the back post, but again Maggio should deal with it. He doesn't, and the ball flicks up invitingly for Shirokov who has the easiest of tasks in nodding the ball past the despairing De Sanctis to make it 3-0.
GOOD BLOCK FROM NOCERINO!!! Zhirkov's last contribution before being replaced is to force a decent piece of defending from Nocerino. The left-winger creeps in at the back post for not the first time tonight, and fires a dangerous shot towards goal. Nocerino is there to throw his body in front of the effort though, and it deflects out for a corner to Russia.
Russia have just looked like they want it more in this second half, and they have deserved the two goals they have scored, albeit one of them was served on a plate by the disappointing Maggio.
Should Italy lose tonight, as it appears they look set to, it will mean they have lost their last three international friendlies, to USA, Uruguay, and now Russia. Credit to Advocaat's side though, they've looked good tonight, and good well prove 'dark horses' in the Euros.
That set piece continues in the same vein as Italy's previous free-kicks, by being wasted, and Russia are in possession once more.
Shirokov and Arshavin sandwich Balotelli with fouls from both sides on the left and Italy have yet another free-kick...
Italy looked really good in the first half. I'm not quite sure what's gone wrong in this second half, but it certainly has gone wrong, and with no further friendlies before the Euros start a week today.
RUSSIA ARE GOING IN SEARCH OF A THIRD GOAL HERE! This is not what Italy would have expected in this game. Denisov works a free-kick quickly out to Zhirkov on the left wing, and he tries to curl the ball towards the waiting Pavlyuchenko at the near-post but De Sanctis is out well to claim the ball from under the nose of the attacker.
Cesare Prandelli couldn't believe his eyes when that second Russia goal went in there. He will be furious with Maggio, who hasn't enjoyed the best of nights up against Arshavin anyway.
Sebastian Giovinco has a chance to reduce the deficit immediately as Italy are awarded a free-kick 25 yards from Akinfeev's goal, but his attempt is high and wide.
Goal Roman Shirokov
WHAT IS MAGGIO DOING?? RUSSIA ARE 2-0 UP!! That's awful awful defending from Christian Maggio at the back for Italy there. He sells De Sanctis short with a back-pass on the right-hand side of the penalty area and the goalkeeper can only hack the ball away as far as Shirokov who sweeps the ball into the empty net from 15 yards.
Di Natale finds some space 20 yards from goal, and he doesn't need asking twice to get a shot away. His left-foot effort is firmly struck, but straight at Akinfeev, and the Russia keeper comfortably palms it down before catching it.
Straight into the wall!! He was silly to try that from there. He's not Andrea Pirlo.
FREE-KICK TO ITALY... Balotelli looks like he wants it, despite it being 35 yards from goal...
Yellow Card Roman Pavlyuchenko
Di Natale and Balotelli are not on the same wavelength at the moment, with the former, who has just been introduced from the bench, trying to lift a pass to the latter only to look up and see he is rooted to the spot.
AMBITIOUS FROM BALOTELLI! The controversial forward attempts a speculative scissor kick inside the Russia penalty area after Maggio had curled an inviting ball towards him. His shot is miles off target though, and prompts a smirk from Akinfeev in the Russia goal.
Antonio Di Natale
This game is being disrupted by substitutions, with both sides struggling to move the ball as fluently as they did in the first half in the past few minutes.
Yellow Card Mario Balotelli
Yellow Card Andrey Arshavin
That's not a nice tackle from Arshavin on Barzagli, and the Arsenal man is correctly shown a yellow card for the foul.
THAT'S A FINE EFFORT FROM DZAGOEV!! The CSKA Moscow attacker strikes one from difference that has De Sanctis in the Italy goal scrambling to cover his top-left corner. That was not far away!
Kerzhakov peeled off the Italy defence with far too much ease to give Russia the lead there. Where were Barzagli and Maggio?
Arshavin is causing more mischief down the left. This time he drives into the box before unleashing a shot at goal that flicks off Maggio's chest and forces De Sanctis into making a smart save to tip the ball over his crossbar.
Daniele De Rossi
Assist Roman Shirokov
Goal Aleksandr Kerzhakov
GOALL!!!! 1-0 TO RUSSIA!! Kerzhakov gets the goal for Advocaat's side. The striker fires the ball home on the half-volley from 10 yards after Barzagli is turned far too easily by Shirokov inside the area, to allow the midfielder to prod the ball tto Kerzhakov in space.
PIRLO DRAGS A SHOT WIDE!! The verteran playmaker is having a lovely game for Italy tonight, and he nearly gets on the scoresheet for his side with a shot from the edge of the box that goes just wide.
It's getting a bit scrappy here in Zurich, with both sides committing a series of silly fouls. Zhirkov is at fault this time, as he lunges in on Balotelli on the left-wing. The game has lost its flow slightly since the break.
Andrea Barzagli is penalised for a push on Kerzhakov on the left as the Russian attacker looks to latch on to a cross-field pass from Shirokov. He was nearly away there!
There's bound to be a number of substitutes in this second half as both manager's tweak their formations and personnel in preparation for the Euros. Fortunately for me, these substitutions will be automatically inserted into this commentary, so keep an eye on the red and green arrows that flash out over the next half an hour!
MARCHISIO SHOULD SCORE!! The Italy midfielder is played in by a neat flick from Cassano but his shot at goal from 12 yards is tame, and easily dealt with by the also recently-introduced Igor Akinfeev, in goal for Russia.
THAT'S NEARLY GLORIOUS FROM CASSANO!! Balotelli finds his strike-partner inside the Russia penalty area with a long searching ball from deep on the right, and Cassano's first touch with his chest is perfect and sets him up for a left-foot volley, but the end product goes crashing over the crossbar.
BALOTELLI HEADS OVER!!! Some lovely play from Marchisio on the left allows him space to whip a cross right on to the head of Balotelli who is eight yards from goal. The striker's header is off target though, with the speed of the pass from Marchisio perhaps catching him off-guard.
Dzagoev is flagged offside for Russia, and I tell you what, that is a close call from the linesman on the far side. The youngster would have been in one-on-one with the recently introduced Morgan De Sanctis if the linesman hadn't raised his flag there.
That's naughty from Shirokov, he's hacked Maggio down in full flow on the right there, with absolutely no intention of getting the ball. Free-kick to Italy on the half-way line.
Morgan De Sanctis
Italy get us back underway in Zurich...
Prandelli spoke before the game of how he will use this friendly against Russia to hone his tactics ahead of the European Championships, and mentioned that he would try and use two sets of tactics, one in the first half, and a different one in the second half. So expect changes for Italy before this match is out.
HALF-TIME: ITALY 0-0 RUSSIA. It's been a thoroughly enjoyable first half at the Stadion Letzigrund, with both sides intent on creating chances and throwing men forward. I'm not quite sure how this match is still 0-0, as Pirlo and De Rossi have come close to scoring for Italy, while Zyryanov and Zhirkov have had the best opportunities for Dick Advocaat's side. Despite the lack of goals, it's been an entertaining match, so do join me in 10 minutes for the second half!
That's it for the first half here in Zurich, with the referee blowing his whistle for half-time.
PIRLO SHOOTS INCHES OVER!! From fully 35 yards the Italy playmaker comes close to breaking the deadlock, as his speculative free-kick lands on the roof of Malafeev's net.
Cassano and Balotelli are combining well for Italy tonight, they are both playing as if they have a point to prove, and will no doubt each have eyes on a starting place in Prandelli's first-choice starting XI. Montolivo on the other hand, has been quite, and on this showing it is hard to see where he will fit in Italy's side at the Euros.
SAFE HANDS FROM BUFFON!!! Italy's right-back Maggio is being torn apart by Arshavin and Zhirkov down the left for Russia at the moment, with the latter of the two Russian schemers racing past the defender and whipping a ball towards the penalty spot that Buffon has to race from his line to gather.
ITALY HAVE THE BALL IN THE NET!! But is is pulled back for offside, with the sort-of goalscorer Cassano the offender. It was a tidy finish from the Milan man, and he looks a bit upset that that wasn't allowed to stand. He was offside though.
Arshavin is having a really good game for Russia tonight, he's all over the place. On this occasion he picks the ball up in a withdrawn midfield position before spraying a fine pass out to Nababkin, who then swings a good cross towards the back post, but it is headed away emphatically by Bonucci. Decent play from Russia.
While we're on the subject of Buffon. Did you know, the esteemed Italy goalkeeper's debut for the national team came against Russia, all the way back in 1997, during the two side's World Cup 98 playoff.
ZHIRKOV STRIKES THE POST!! Arriving late at the back post from a Shirokov corner the former Chelsea man hits an instinctive first-time volley at goal that crashes off a combination of Buffon and the post and out for a goal-kick.
Before that second Zyryanov chance Mario Balotelli appeared fairly put out by something in the build-up to a chance for Italy. The striker got the ball inside the area with his back to goal before attempting a back-heeled pass to his team-mate Cassano. The move broke down, but Balotelli looked far from pleased by the old-school defending from Ignashevich. The's motioning that the defender pulled his shirt to the referee, but he's having none of it!
That man Zyryanov is getting involved after a quiet opening 27 minutes! He's just come close to giving Russia the lead with a low left-footed shot from 20 yards. Luckily for Buffon, it scraped the right-hand post before going wide.
Zyryanov has a chance to test Buffon from the edge of the area but gets underneath the ball, and his driven shot is a long way from troubling the Italy goalkeeper.
CHANCE FOR ITALY!! De Rossi controls a lofted ball from Pirlo beautifully inside the Russia penalty area before firing a low cross towards Mario Balotelli. In a tangle with Ignashevich the striker cannot quite get a touch on the pass, and the ball runs out for a throw-in on the far side. Italy are looking good here.
Arsenal fans might be thinking where has this Arshavin been all season, and it's a fair question. The Russian attacker has looked ten times the player he was for the Gunners earlier in the season.
SHIROKOV SHOOTS HIGH AND WIDE!! Arshavin is at the heart of it once again, jinking his way past two or three challenges on the left-hand side of the box before shifting the ball along to Shirokov. The midfielder gets his shot all wrong though, shanking his effort high and wide.
De Rossi is getting forward well in this first half, and he has another shot at goal, this time from distance. It is straight at Malfeev though, and the Russian goalkeeper gathers the ball comfortably.
Speaking of Balotelli, the prankster was up to his usual tricks earlier today during Italy's official squad photo. The Manchester City striker pulled Thiago Motta's tie seconds before the photo was due to be taken, causing it to be momentarily postponed. Motta didn't look too happy, but Chiellini next to him found it hysterical.
Balzaretti does brilliantly down the left, playing a neat one-two with Cassano before swinging an inviting cross into the penalty area. Italy should really have someone attacking that ball, but they don't. A quick glance to Balotelli and he's looking fairly disinterested on the edge of the box.
I've just seen a replay of that Pirlo pass to Balotelli earlier, and it really was a joy to behold. Italy should just sit him in the centre circle and ask him to do that for the whole Euros. What a player!
Russia attack down the left through Zhirkov, and win a couple of throw-ins after Maggio hoofs the ball out of play to safety. Sadly, they amount to nothing though.
The game appears to settle down for a minute or so, and to be honest both sides deserve a little rest. They must be pretty exhausted by the high tempo start to this one. My fingers are smoking...
BALOTELLI HAMMERS A SHOT WIDE!! After working a yard of space 25 yards from goal Balotelli sends a firm right-footed effort towards goal that flashes inches wide. Chances a-plenty in this one!
MATCH FACT: In 1968, when Italy won their only Euro, they beat Russia in the semi-final courtesy of a coin toss. Yes you read that right, a coin toss.
This is end-to-end stuff here at the Stadion Letzigrund in Zurich, both sides are really going for it and have created decent goalscoring chances already.
KERZHAKOV STRIKES THE POST!! The Russia striker hits a sweet left-footed volley from 20 yards towards goal that has Buffon beaten, but the Italy keeper is saved by his right-hand post, and the ball bounces away to safety.
BALOTELLI SHOULD SCORE!! Andrea Pirlo chips a delightful ball over the top for the Manchester City striker, but he wastes a chance to give his side the lead, one-on-one with Malafeev.
Russia go straight up the other end and win a corner, before Andrey Arshavin dances past Balzaretti and fires a shot a couple of yards wide.
EARLY CHANCE FOR ITALY!!! Antonio Cassano digs out a fine ball on the right to find the on-rushing Daniele De Rossi, but his first-time effort from 10 yards flies just wide of Malafeev's goal.
Christian Maggio does well to get in some space on the right for Italy, but he produces a poor touch when attempting to control a long pass from Leondardo Bonucci. He was nearly in there, and if his touch had been better, he could have supplied a dangerous cross for his team's strikers.
The match has kicked off here, with Italy attacking from left to right in their classic blue strip, while Russia are decked out in a white kit with red trim.
The teams are out on the pitch in Zurich and we are minutes away from getting underway here...
RUSSIA TEAM NEWS: Sergei Ignashevich starts despite many pundits expecting him to be rested for this game, while Alan Dzagoev gets a chance to work on his match fitness as he lines up as part of a three-pronged attack for Russia alongside Andrey Arshavin and Aleksandr Kerzhakov.
ITALY TEAM NEWS: Italy go with an experimental 4-3-1-2 formation, with Riccardo Montolivo playing just behind the two strikers Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli. Elsewhere, Giorgio Chiellini fails to shrug off his thigh problem, with Leonardo Bonucci starting at centre-back instead of him.
Russia (4-3-3): Malafeev; Nababkin, Ignashevich, Berezutski, Zhirkov; Zyryanov, Denisov, Shirokov; Arshavin, Dzagoev, Kerzhakov
Italy (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Maggio, Bonucci, Barzagli, Balzaretti; Pirlo, Marchisio, De Rossi; Montolivo; Cassano, Balotelli
Without further ado, here are the starting XIs for each side:
Russia, on the other hand played out a disappointing 0-0 draw with Lithuania on Tuesday in their second warm-up before the summer showpiece, and their manager Dick Advocaat will no doubt be looking for a much-improved performance this evening.
While the majority of teams heading to Euro 2012 will have played at least two warm-up games by the time the tournament kicks off a week today, Italy won't have. Their friendly against Luxembourg on Tuesday was called off after a deadly 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck the Emilia-Romagna region, meaning Cesare Prandelli has just this game against Russia to try different formations and players in a match situation, before Euro 2012 gets underway.
As many of you will know, the Zenit St. Petersburg defender Domenico Criscito was dropped from Cesare Prandelli's final 23-man Italy squad earlier in the week after police raided the player's room at the team's training base in Coverciano as part of the on-going Scommessopoli investigation. Tonight, however, we are talking about the players on the pitch, so let's hope for an entertaining match!
Good evening and welcome to Goal.com's LIVE coverage of the international friendly between Italy and Russia in Zurich. My name is Charlie Scott, and I will be providing you with an entertaining and insightful minute-by-minute commentary of the match as it unfolds.
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