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St. Kitts and Nevis
15 August 2013
• Stadio Olimpico, Roma
Referee: W. Stark
• Attendance: 35000
L. Insigne 75'
G. Higuaín 21'
É. Banega 49'
Italy return to 2014 World Cup qualifying action when they host Bulgaria on September 6th whilst Argentina look to secure qualification with victory away at Paraguay on September 10th. Thanks for joining me, Max Bentley, on this thrilling international friendly. Until next time, goodbye!
FT: ITALY 1-2 ARGENTINA. The referee calls time on a fascinating international friendly at the Stadio Olimpico. Gonzalo Higuain opened the scoring for Alejandro Sabella's side before turning provider for Ever Banega to double the lead. However, Lorenzo Insigne's wonderstrike ensured it was a nervy finish for the Albiceleste who are now unbeaten against the Azzurri in four matches.
90' + 2'
Cerci wins a 15th corner of the game for Italy and it is laid back for Florenzi, whose low shot is diverted over the crossbar for another corner.
WHAT A SAVE FROM MARCHETTI! He has been imperious since coming on for Buffon and produces a splendid one-handed save to deny Fernandez's curling effort which seemed destined for the top corner.
Alvarez and Lavezzi combine well once again but the latter's well-struck shot goes just over the crossbar. Will Argentina rue these late chances?
Lavezzi does well to find space down the left and he picks out Alvarez at the back post but the Inter midfielder can only find the side netting with his shot. That would have sealed it for Argentina!
Verratti looks to dink a ball over the top for Diamanti but Fernandez is there to make a crucial interception. Moments later, Cerci sends a header over the bar at the back post.
Insigne is full of confidence here and he cuts inside the challenge of Campagnaro before sending a left-footed shot just over the crossbar via Andujar's fingertips.
Ángel Di María
GREAT SAVE FROM MARCHETTI! Angel Di Maria dances his way into the box and has just Marchetti to beat but the Lazio shotstopper stands tall to deny the Real Madrid man. Italy are still in this!
Diamanti sends an outswinging to the back post and Chiellini is there once again to meet it, but his header goes narrowly over the top. What an aerial threat he is!
The crowd are urging Italy forward in search of an equaliser here but Cerci's promising run is brought to a halt by Coloccini. What a great friendly we have here.
Another Argentina change as Maxi Rodriguez replaces Javier Mascherano.
Assist D. Osvaldo
Goal Lorenzo Insigne
WHAT A GOAL FROM INSIGNE! The Napoli man brings Italy back into the contest with a fantastic curling strike from Osvaldo's layoff. That completely took Andujar by surprise. 2-1.
Diamanti floats the free kick into the box and it falls the way of Osvaldo but his wild left-footed strike goes wide of the target.
Yellow Card Hugo Campagnaro
Hugo Campagnaro picks up the first booking of the game for a foul on Aquilani.
Chiellini has been on the end of everything today and he sends another header narrowly over the crossbar.
Argentina make a change in defence with Coloccini replacing Garay. Prandelli makes an attacking switch with Cerci replacing Maggio.
ITALY HAVE THE BALL IN THE NET, BUT IT DOESN'T COUNT! Basanta concedes a foul on Diamanti just outside the box and the Bologna attacker's effort is well parried by Andujar before Aquilani eventually turns in the rebound, only to be denied by the linesman's raised flag.
CHIELLINI IS AT IT AGAIN! The Juventus defender is everywhere this evening and he controls Aquilani's pass before firing a right-footed half volley into the nearest defender.
Chiellini is Italy's most dangerous attacking threat and he is unlucky to see his goalbound header ricochet off a blue and white shirt for a corner.
Argentina are unbeaten in their last three matches against Italy and that run looks to continue here. They have been solid in defence with Biglia and Mascherano sitting firm in front of the back four.
Sabella makes a second substitution, replacing goalscorer Gonzalo Higuain with Ezequiel Lavezzi. A splendid performance from Napoli's new talisman.
Banega whips a free kick towards the back post, looking for Campagnaro but overhits his effort for a goal kick.
WHAT A SAVE FROM MARCHETTI! The Lazio goalkeeper makes an instant impact, producing a superb double save to deny Palacio and Higuain.
Prandelli opts to make two further substitutions with Marchetti and Diamanti replacing Buffon and Giaccherini.
Insigne looks to make things happen for Italy when he cuts inside from the left. However, he shows too much of the ball to Mascherano who cleverly steals the ball away.
Angel Di Maria produces another jinking run to work his way into the Italy box but once again dallies in possession and fails to pick out a teammate.
Assist Gonzalo Higuaín
Goal Ever Banega
2-0 ARGENTINA! Ever Banega makes an instant impact as he races up the field to join in the counter attack. He receives Higuain's perfectly-weighted pass inside the box and thumps a brilliant shot past Buffon and into the bottom left-hand corner.
The home support cheer loudly as Chiellini trots forward for an Italy corner but Andujar manages to claim from the set-piece.
Alejandro Sabella also makes a change with Ever Banega replacing Erik Lamela.
Cesare Prandelli makes three substitutions at the break with Alberto Aquilani, Alessandro Florenzi and Lorenzo Insigne replacing Riccardo Montolivo, Claudio Marchisio and Antonio Candreva.
HT: ITALY 0-1 ARGENTINA. Fascinating first half here at the Stadio Olimpico where Argentina lead courtesy of Gonzalo Higuain's 21st-minute strike. The Azzurri may feel they should have had a penalty when Federico Fernandez hauled down Giorgio Chiellini in the box but other than that, they have struggled to fashion chances in front of goal. Sabella's side have the advantage at the break.
45' + 1'
GREAT TACKLE FROM FERNANDEZ! The 24-year-old keeps his side's clean sheet intact, producing a wonderful sliding challenge to prevent Osvaldo from turning in Maggio's low cross.
IT SHOULD BE 2-0! Argentina launch a quick counter attack and Di Maria picks out Palacio at the back post but the Inter man can only put it over the crossbar on the slide.
Candreva's free kick is half cleared to the edge of the box where Marchisio meets it with a firm volley which is well blocked. Italy keeping up the pressure.
Italy win another corner down the right but Chiellini is adjudged to have fouled Fernandez and Argentina win the free kick.
MARCHISIO SHOULD DO BETTER! Candreva is a real threat down this right and he delivers another teasing ball into the middle which Marchisio, unmarked, inexplicably miskicks. Can Prandelli's side snatch an equaliser before the break?
That's better from Italy! Candreva produces a neat piece of skill to evade his marker before sending a whipped cross towards the back post which just misses Osvaldo's outstretched boot. Italy are on top at the moment.
Antonelli drives forward from left-back but his cross into the box is well cleared by Fernandez. Prandelli will be expecting better deliveries from his wing-backs in the second half.
Candreva delivers a teasing corner into the box but Chiellini's header goes inches over the crossbar. Andujar still relatively untested in the Argentina goal.
Riccardo Montolivo produces a wonderful pass to set Osvaldo through on goal. However, the Argentine-born forward, is adjudged narrowly offside. That was a very close call from the linesman.
Rodrigo Palacio looks to latch onto an incise through ball in hope of doubling Argentina's lead, but Chiellini is there again to outmuscle the Inter forward and move the ball upfield. Great defending.
Montolivo produces a wonderful pass to set up Maggio down the right, but the right-back's cross is too close to Andujar who comfortably plucks the ball out of the air. Osvaldo is cutting a somewhat isolated figure up front so far.
Erik Lamela has looked bright in his third international appearance but this time, he overhits his through ball for Palacio and Buffon comfortably claims.
Italy have responded well to going behind but they are yet to seriously test Mario Andujar. Are they missing a certain Mario Balotelli up front?
Italy appeal for a penalty when Chiellini goes down under Fernandez's challenge in the box but the referee waves play on. The Napoli defender certainly seemed to have a hold of his shirt.
You've got to say that Argentina's start to the game has merited the lead. They have been much the brighter side in the attacking third and now have the goal to show for it.
Assist Erik Lamela
Goal Gonzalo Higuaín
GOAL ARGENTINA! Daniele De Rossi's sloppy pass gifts Argentina possession and Erik Lamela picks out Gonzalo Higuain who cuts inside from the left and thumps the ball past Buffon. 1-0.
Daniele De Rossi eyes up a free kick from distance but his ambitious effort flies high over Andujar's crossbar.
This is a big chance for Verratti to showcase his talent as he looks to fill Pirlo's shoes. The PSG youngster has been bright so far with some neat turns.
Italy threaten when Osvaldo sets up Giaccherini on the edge of the box but his goalbound effort is well blocked by Garay.
Italy haven't found their rhythm just yet and new Sunderland signing Giaccherini sums up their attacking performance so far by sloppily giving away possession.
Fernandez picks out Palacio win a wonderful long pass but the Inter attacker takes the ball too wide and his cross towards the back post is cleared by Maggio at the second attempt.
Daniele De Rossi has not looked out of place at centre-half so far and he produces another important challenge to halt Di Maria's mazy run. Great tempo at the start of this match.
GREAT CHALLENGE FROM CHIELLINI! Higuain dribbles his way dangerously into the Azzurri box and just as he is set to pull the trigger, the Juventus centre-back rushes across to make a solid sliding tackle.
Italy launch an immediate counter attack with Antonelli splitting the opposition defence with a long ball but Andujar races out of his goal to prevent Osvaldo from getting on the end of it.
Lamela drives forward down the right for Argentina but his low cross into the middle cannot quite find Higuain in the middle and De Rossi clearly dribbles the ball out of his own box.
Sabella's side have started excellently here and Buffon is called into action to save from Higuain's low drive.
Angel Di Maria's jinking run wins Argentina a free kick just outside the box but Garay's fierce effort rises high over the crossbar.
The referee blows his whistle and Argentina get the game underway.
The sides emerge onto the field and the national anthems soon follow, echoing around a filled Stadio Olimpico. Gianluigi Buffon, making his 134th international cap, sings with his traditional gusto.
Lionel Messi is also ruled out with a thigh strain, giving Roma winger Erik Lamela the chance to shine. He is one of seven Serie A-based players in the Argentina starting eleven.
Mario Balotelli is injured for Italy, meaning that Pablo Osvaldo is given a chance to redeem himself after he was left out of Prandelli's Confederations Cup squad for ill-discipline. Daniele De Rossi surprisingly starts in the heart of defence while Marco Verratti and Emanuele Giaccherini are the only non-Serie A starters.
ARGENTINA (4-2-3-1): Andujar; Campagnaro, Fernandez, Garay, Basanta; Biglia, Mascherano; Di Maria, Palacio, Lamela; Higuain.
ITALY (4-3-2-1): Buffon; Maggio, De Rossi, Chiellini, Antonelli; Montolivo, Verratti, Marchisio; Candreva, Giaccherini; Osvaldo.
Without any further ado, here are this evening's lineups...
The Albiceleste are unbeaten in their past three clashes with the Azzurri and Hernan Crespo scored the winner in the last meeting, a 2-1 win back in 2001.
My name is Max Bentley and I'll be keeping you up to date with all the action as it unfolds at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. With only ten months remaining until the 2014 World Cup, this international friendly promises to be excellent preparation as both coaches look for the stand-out players to fill their 23-man squads.
Pope Francis admits that he has divided loyalties ahead of this evening's contest between Italy and Argentina. The Argentine, whose parents hailed from Northern Italy, said he could not decide who to support when he met the respective sides at the Vatican earlier this week. Perhaps a draw would suffice him?
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