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WC Qualification Europe

  • 12 September 2012
  • • 00:15
  • • Stadio Alberto Braglia, Modena
  • Referee: A. Munukka
  • • Attendance: 18000

Live Commentary

  • Thanks for joining us here on, as always. From me, Tom Woods, it's good night and good luck.
  • Full time: Italy 2-0 Malta. It's job done for Prandelli's men, albeit in unconvincing fashion. In second gear for the entire match, they did the bare minimum to see of lowly Malta here. Still, in the context of World Cup qualification, three points is what matters.
  • 90' + 2'
    Assist Andrea Pirlo
  • 90' + 2'
    Goal Federico Peluso
    GOOALL ITALY! Well finally, the Azzurri have a second goal. Pirlo's corner is met with a soft header by Peluso, but Hogg's save rebounds off Andrew Cohen and over the line. Soft goal, but Italy have their clincher.
  • 90' + 1'
    Yellow Card Andrew Hogg
  • 90' + 1'
    What on earth? Pazzini looks like he's sealed the points as he nicks Pirlo's pass beyond Hogg, but with the keeper scrambling, the ball drifts wide of a gaping net. How did it not go in?
  • 89'
    Peluso strays offside as he goes in search of another long ball over the top. We will have three added minutes here.
  • 88'
    Somehow, from Insigne's cross, Pazzini fails to connect with a header he was firm favourite for. The Malta defence are then able to scramble the ball away from Barzagli.
  • 87'
    Pazzini is almost gifted Italy's second after Hogg comes for a cross and totally misses. Thankfully Luke Dimech is there to save the keeper's blushes.
  • 86'
    SubstitutionAlexander Muscat Ryan Camilleri
  • 86'
    Mifsud has been a worthy runner for the visitors tonight, but can't quite beat Buffon to a hopeful through-ball. Imagine if Malta scored. Just imagine.
  • 85'
    Second change from Malta. Ryan Camilleri takes to the field in place of Alex Muscat.
  • 84'
    Malta are going to end on a positive note here. Edward Herrera exchanges passes with Andre Schembri and bursts forward, until he runs into Bonucci. But the minnows may as well go for it.
  • 82'
    SubstitutionMattia Destro Sebastian Giovinco
  • 82'
    Italy make another attacking change. Mattia Destro earns a warm round of applause for his display tonight, and is replaced by Sebastian Giovinco. Wonder if the little man can add a final flourish here.
  • 80'
    We're into the last ten minutes. It's STILL 1-0.
  • 79'
    Pirlo drifts in a vintage pass for Insigne, but Hogg is flying out again to claim the ball. It's certainly no holds barred from the Malta keeper tonight. Just think if he was on a clean sheet.
  • 78'
    Peluso sends in a dangerous cross, but despite three Italy players jumping for it, none can make a connection. Not exactly vintage centre forward play.
  • 76'
    Andre Schembri jostles his way to the byeline but hits his cross out of play. Malta had found a decent position there. Dare I say it, with a stroke of luck, they can nick an equaliser here.
  • 75'
    Yellow Card Andrew Cohen
  • 75'
    That is the worst dive you will ever see. Andrew Cohen runs past Barzagli, then throws himself to the floor in ludicrous fashion. Yellow card, and a red face for the substitute.
  • 74'
    Destro is onto another Marchisio pass, but his shot is deflected away by Luke Dimech, who has looked useful tonight.
  • 73'
    Bonucci is joining the attacks now, and strikes a couple of thunderbolts at goal which Malta do well to block. The final effort from the centre-back, however, sails into the stands.
  • 71'
    Yellow Card André Schembri
  • 71'
    It's been a couple of minutes since I mentioned Lorenzo Insigne, so let's do that. The no.17 nicks the ball away from Andre Schembri, and is promptly hauled back by the Malta player. That's the only way they have worked out how to stop him, he's been electric in this second half.
  • 69'
    SubstitutionDaniel Bogdanovic Andrew Cohen
  • 69'
    SubstitutionD. Osvaldo Giampaolo Pazzini
  • 69'
    A change for each side here. For Malta, Andrew Cohen replaces Bogdanovic, while Giampaolo Pazzini will come on for Italy, replacing Osvaldo.
  • 68'
    Marchisio nearly does just that, but after a dangerous break forward the Juve man fires over from the edge of the box.
  • 66'
    Insigne again on the left, who pirouettes away from Borg and is then smothered by Hogg. It's delightful to watch.
  • 63'
    Just keep giving it to Insigne. Each time the Napoli man wins the ball, he beats his man and sends in a dangerous cross. Malta don't know what to do with him. Good things are promised down that wing for Italy.
  • 62'
    Glorious from Pirlo. The Juve man twists and turns majestically inside the box, and must execute three or four Cruyff turns, each raising a cheer from the crowd. He eventually decides to pass, and his cross is met with a terrible volley by Nocerino that runs across goal.
  • 61'
    Luke Dimech charges forward and has a pop from distance, and it dips just over Buffon's crossbar.
  • 60'
    An hour gone, though, and it's 1-0 Italy. Didn't think I'd be typing that.
  • 58'
    Insigne is on fire. He beats Borg again on the right, then does Agius with a shimmy, but Hogg is out quickly to smother the ball. The debutante's enthusiasm has done wonders for Italy's attacking play here.
  • 57'
    Malta just won a rare corner, which Italy did not look comfortable defending at all. It really is time the Azzurri put this game to bed.
  • 56'
    Nocerino finally takes off the shackles and gets forward, and it nearly leads to Italy's second goal. The Milan man arrives into the area to meet Marchisio's ball, and fires in a dangerous cross that Andrew Hogg saves well at the feet of Destro. The Malta keeper took a nasty knock there, but looks OK to continue.
  • 54'
    Peluso looks to have been brought to life by Insigne, and goes on the attack again down the left. His cross bends away to hit the top of the net, however.
  • 53'
    Insigne wins a 60 yard pass, and at first it looks glorious, until the replays show he used his entire arm. Cheeky.
  • 51'
    Yellow Card Alexander Muscat
  • 51'
    Nice again from Insigne, who releases Peluso with a lovely reverse pass. Where was this guy 45 minutes ago?
  • 49'
    Lovely stuff from Insigne. The debutant beats Steve Borg with ease on the right wing, and stands up a cross towards Destro that is headed out to Osvaldo, who volleys over. The Napoli man raised a huge cheer from the home faithful there with that piece of skill.
  • 48'
    Two dangerous balls from Pirlo there, but nobody in a blue shirt is able to convert. Insigne tries the spectacular from 25 yards, but his shot is blocked.
  • 47'
    Another ball over the top, another run from Destro, another interception and another Italy corner...
  • 47'
    Hello, what's this? Bogdanovic absolutely does Peluso with a drop of the shoulder, and the Atalanta man has to scramble back to make the tackle and avoid embarrassment.
  • 46'
    SubstitutionAlessandro Diamanti Lorenzo Insigne
  • 46'
    Malta kick off, and we're back underway.
  • The teams are back out here. Insigne is officially introduced to the fans, and the Napoli man races on to the field in place of Alessandro Diamanti.
  • Well, wrap me in a sheet and call me Nostradamus. Lorenzo Insigne is stripped and ready to come on at the start of the second half.
  • Don't get me wrong, I'm still putting my house on an Italy win here.
  • Well, Italy are basically going to win this, but against Malta, that isn't really the point. There really should be some attacking verve to enjoy, despite Malta's heavy defence, and that just isn't the case so far. Prandelli does have options on the bench, including potential debutant Lorenzo Insigne, and he may well look to switch something in the very near future.
  • The whistle goes right on the stroke of 45 minutes. Malta ended the half with 10 men behind the ball, and it's unlikely they will change that approach for the rest of the match. At the moment, Italy are struggling to create any clear openings. They have the lead, but it's been a lot of frustration since then.
  • 43'
    Mattia Destro, however, has been a bright spark. He skips past two men and goes for the one-two with Osvaldo, and looks to be checked by Andrei Agius. No penalty, but it probably should have been.
  • 42'
    Diamanti has a go from the corner, but it's deflected well over. Italy look like they will go in with just a single-goal lead at the break.
  • 41'
    This isn't all that good from Italy. Despite almost total control of the ball, there has been precious little creativity when it comes to the final ball. Too many crosses, like the last one from Cassani, have been cleared easily by the Malta defence.
  • 39'
    Italy revert to the long ball over the top, which has worked a treat so far, but this time Destro has stepped offside from Pirlo's pass.
  • 38'
    Pirlo goes for goal from the free-kick, but it's a long, long way out and the ball hails harmlessly over the bar.
  • 37'
    Another foul on Diamanti, pulled to the floor by Gareth Sciberras. What do Malta have to do to get a booking?
  • 36'
    Leonardo Bonucci fancies his luck from 30 yards, but his skidding shot is always drifting wide. Italy look like they need the settler of a second goal. Malta will keep believing until they do.
  • 35'
    Borg goes charging into the back of Diamanti, and Italy win a free-kick. The right-back is lucky to escape without a booking.
  • 34'
    Peluso loses the ball not once, but twice, to Briffa in dangerous territory. Still sitting comfortably Italy?
  • 32'
    Andrei Agius loses the ball to Osvaldo, who tries a cute through-ball to Destro that is blocked by Dimech. Then moments later, Buffon is called into the game for the first time, palming a fierce drive from Briffa over the bar.
  • 31'
    As I wrote that, Cassani bombed forward and sent in a teasing cross that Hogg dives out to gather. That's what I'm talking about guys.
  • 30'
    That would have been a crazy goal from Mifsud, but it's a reminder that at 1-0, anything can happen. Italy ought to have a greater cushion than this before they slow down to the extent that we are seeing here.
  • 28'
    Marchisio dallies on the ball, and is almost punished spectacularly by Michael Mifsud. After robbing the Juve man on the halfway line, the former Coventry man sees Buffon off his line and launches one towards goal. It doesn't miss by much you know.
  • 27'
    Peluso tries a first time cross on the volley, and makes a mess of it allowing Bogdanovic to clear. Italy can afford to try things, but I'd prefer to see a slightly more measured approach in front of goal.
  • 25'
    Luke Dimech wins an aerial challenge with Osvaldo, and catches the Roma man with a trailing arm. Not intentional for me, but the no.9 looks less than impressed.
  • 24'
    Osvaldo wants to force the issue here, and fires in a shot from 25 yards that Malta block. Still, it's about the first shot Italy have had in 15 minutes.
  • 23'
    Malta broke with a 3v3 there, but Gareth Sciberras is seeing the headlines. He attempts a ludicrous, cross-field through ball to Mifsud, which even Pirlo would think twice about, and Italy intercept.
  • 22'
    The corner is met on the volley by Destro, but the ball skews across goal and Malta can clear.
  • 21'
    Diamanti runs down another blind alley, and ends up winning a corner off Borg. Prandelli doesn't look to happy with the Bologna man you know.
  • 19'
    Mattia Cassani is coming into the game, but has just been let down by Diamanti, who failed to control his useful through ball. Italy are in utter control, and are just looking for the right moment to strike.
  • 16'
    Following a period of keep-ball from Malta (yes, really), Italy nearly take a two-goal lead. Marchisio lifts another ball over the top, and this time Osvaldo is onto it. He beats Muscat easily but a diving Luke Dimech saves the day. The corner is claimed by Hogg.
  • 15'
    Alex Muscat beats his man on the left and sends in a teasing cross that is headed away, then from the rebound, a cross runs just beyond Bogdanovic. They're trying, Malta. They're trying.
  • 14'
    Antonio Nocerino is sitting pretty deep here. Given his scoring record for Milan last year, you'd think he'd want to get involved in the action at the other end. Disciplined stuff from him so far.
  • 13'
    Destro is almost in again, latching on to a long ball from the back, but he is well marshalled off the ball by Steve Borg.
  • 12'
    Close! Diamanti whips the free-kick towards goal, and a combination of Andrew Hogg and the crossbar keeps it out. Very nearly 2-0.
  • 11'
    Herrera brings down Osvaldo on the corner of the box. Free-kick Italy...
  • 10'
    Federico Peluso is trying a little too hard to impress here. The Atalanta man clearly wants to be involved in the attacks here, but has tried to beat one man too many for about the fifth time, causing the move to break down.
  • 8'
    Some nice feet from Roderick Briffa there, who beats two challenges before attempting a through ball for Schembri that is just cut out. Good effort from the Valletta man.
  • 6'
    That's a nice confidence booster for Destro, who has just bagged his first international goal. There may be more where that came from tonight.
  • 5'
    Goal Mattia Destro
  • 5'
    Assist Claudio Marchisio
  • 4'
    Andrea Pirlo has just LOST THE BALL. The midfield maestro is at walking pace so far, and Gareth Sciberras let him know it with a crunching, fair tackle. Nice work.
  • 3'
    Well, it's pretty much all Italy, but Prandelli's side have thus far failed to have an attempt on goal. Malta are hassling their opponents perfectly well so far, looking for that man Bogdanovic to lead them on the break.
  • 1'
    There's the whistle. Here we go.
  • Lovely atmosphere inside the stadium, with the fans belting out ‘Il Canto degli Italiani’ (The Song of the Italians). Your referee tonight is Antti Manukka, who hails from Finland.
  • The teams are on their way out. Time to get down to business for the Azzurri, or are Malta about to prove I know absolutely nothing about this fair game of ours? Keep those tweets coming to @woodstome.
  • So, having stacked all the odds against Malta, let me at least say this. This side is on a decent run of form, with three wins in its last four matches. Against Luxembourg, Liechtenstein and San Marino they may have been, but as any self-respecting coach will tell you, a win is a win. They have lost all of their previous meetings with Italy, but there is a great opportunity for these players to give a rare exhibition to a huge global audience. And I say good luck to them.
  • MALTA (4-4-2): Hogg; Borg, Dimech, Agius, Muscat; Herrera, Briffa Sciberras, Bogdanovic; Mifsud, Schembri
  • ITALY (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Cassani, Barzagli, Bonucci, Peluso; Nocerino, Pirlo, Marchisio; Diamanti; Osvaldo, Destro
  • Malta’s squad contains eight players from domestic champions Valletta, including former Coventry City striker Michael Mifsud. He starts up front tonight alongside Andre Schembri, who plays his football in Cyprus. Supporting them will be Daniel Bogdanovic, who will be known to you Barnsley and Sheffield United fans out there.
  • For Italy, Cesare Prandelli has abandoned the 3-5-2 formation that was used during that last outing in Sofia. In come Mattia Cassani and Federico Peluso at full-back, while Antonio Nocerino replaces the injured Daniele De Rossi in midfield. Upfront, Alessandro Diamanti will play behind Roma pair Pablo Osvaldo, who scored both goals last time out, and Mattia Destro.
  • Time for some TEAM NEWS. Here are your lineups for tonight’s game.
  • I’ll even back that statement up with some facts. Pietro Ghedin’s team are 133 places below their opponents in the Fifa world rankings, below the likes of Surinam, New Caledonia and Burundi. Nearly every player in tonight’s squad plays their domestic football in the Maltese Premier Division, ranked by UEFA national coefficient as the ninth worst in all of Europe. After dropping points in Bulgaria over the weekend, the Azzurri will be out to prove their credentials tonight, and poor Malta will be on the receiving end.
  • It’s a local derby in many ways, as the Azzurri take on a tiny island nation, just off the coast of Sicily. But don’t expect any of the intensity that such fixtures sometimes bring. This is as clear a case of little vs large as you could wish for, and anything other than a home win will be a shock of epic proportions.
  • Part of the enduring appeal of this beloved game is its unfailing ability to spring a surprise. Going into most games, every fan is gripped by even the faintest hope that the unexpected can happen. Tonight, however, is not one of those nights. For anybody holding out for a Malta win, abandon hope now. The visitors have absolutely no chance tonight. Zilch. Nada. Diddly squat.
  • Evening all. Welcome to tonight’s World Cup 2014 qualifier between Italy and Malta, from the Stadio Alberto Braglia in Modena. I’m Tom Woods (@woodstome) and I’ll be bringing you the action as it unfolds here on If you’re looking for goals, you’ve come to the right place.