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0 vs 0
Played
June 7, 2013 7:45 PM BST
Generali Arena — Praha
Referee:‬ S. Moen‎
Attendance:‬ 18235‎
 
Top of the Match
Gianluigi Buffon
Gianluigi Buffon
Italy
Gianluigi Buffon
Gianluigi Buffon
Italy
Flop of the Match
Mario Balotelli
Mario Balotelli
Italy
Mario Balotelli
Mario Balotelli
Italy

Czech Republic 0-0 Italy: Balotelli dismissed for visitors in Prague stalemate

The AC Milan attacker was sent off for picking up two bookings in the space of four minutes, but the Azzurri held on to take another step forward on the road to Brazil

By Mark Doyle

Italy survived the dismissal of Mario Balotelli to move four points clear at the top of World Cup qualifying Group B after a dour 0-0 draw with Czech Republic on Friday night.

The Azzurri turned in a dismal performance in Prague and appeared in real danger of defeat when their star forward was sent off for a second bookable offence on 71 minutes.

However, the Czechs, who had repeatedly been frustrated by Gianluigi Buffon up until that point, missed a glorious chance to win the game when Petr Jiracek volleyed against the post, meaning the home side had to settle for a draw that leaves them third in the pool, a point behind Bulgaria.

Italy came into the game on the back of a four-game winning streak in Group B but the Czechs, who were routed 3-0 at home by Denmark in their last outing, made the brighter start and they really should have taken the lead 12 minutes in but Buffon saved brilliantly with his feet after the ball had fallen kindly for Jiracek in the area.

The hosts continued to look the side more likely to break the dealock during the remainder of a desperately underwhelming first half, but that was not saying much, given just how little the Azzurri were offering from an attacking perspective, with Balotelli the only player clad in blue who looked remotely capable of making something happen for the visitors.

As it was, though, the best that the Czechs could muster before a most welcome break from the tedium on the field was a decent long-range effort from Libor Kozak.

After making the rather surprise decision to play 4-3-1-2, with the unfortunate Riccardo Montolivo again employed in the trequartista role that he is in no way suited for, Cesare Prandelli even more bizarrely opted against reverting to his usual three-man frontline for the start of the second half, and instead simply replaced Stephan El Shaarawy with Sebastian Giovinco.

The change in personnel made little impact on the toothless nature of Italy's display and they were indebted to the brilliance of Buffon again on the hour when the captain saved well with his feet once more, this time from Kozak, who had been put in on goal by a perfectly-pitched ball over the top from Tomas Rosicky.

Kozak drew another smart stop from Buffon five minutes later, after evading Daniele De Rossi on the edge of the area as the hosts belatedly realised that they had an excellent opportunity to derail their group's runaway leaders.

Their hopes of doing just that were significantly boosted by Balotelli's dismissal, with the striker shown two yellow cards after two needless fouls in the space four minutes, though it must be said that the second booking, for throwing his hand in the face of Theodor Gebre Selassie, was harsh in the extreme.

Balotelli appeared to concur with that sense, as he lashed out at the tunnel in frustration as he marched away from the field of play.

The Czechs should have won it with six minutes left, but after Italy had completely switched off for a Jaroslav Plasil free kick, an unmarked Jiracek volleyed against the outside of the post, much to the relief of the Azzurri, who took another significant step on the road to Rio in spite of a dismal display.


Czech Rep.

1
Petr Cech
Goalkeeper
3.00
8
David Limbersky
Defender
20′
3.00
24
Michal Kadlec
Defender
3.50
23
3.00
6
Tomas Sivok
Defender
3.00
8
Jaroslav Plasil
Midfielder
4.00
19
Petr Jirácek
Midfielder
86′
4.00
3
Tomas Hubschmann
Midfielder
3.50
7
Tomas Rosicky
Midfielder
3.50
7
Vladimír Darida
Midfielder
66′ 75′
3.00
27
Libor Kozák
Striker
3.50

Italy

4.50
1
3.50
15
3.00
3
2.50
20
3.00
19
2.00
21
Andrea Pirlo
Midfielder
77′
2.50
8
2.50
16
2.50
18
1.50
45
2.00
92

Substitutes

1
 - 
31
Tomas Vaclik
Goalkeeper
 - 
17
Marek Suchy
Defender
20′
2.50
33
Tomas Kalas
Defender
 - 
18
 - 
26
Daniel Kolar
Midfielder
86′
3.00
23
 - 
-
 - 
10
2.50
9
 - 

Substitutes

 - 
22
 - 
30
 - 
13
 - 
2
2.50
10
 - 
87
 - 
11
Alessio Cerci
Midfielder
 - 
11
 - 
23
 - 
-
 - 
11
2.50
12

Coach/Manager

-
 - 

Coach/Manager

 - 
-
 
  • Goal
  • Own Goal
  • Penalty
  • Penalty Missed
  • Yellow Card
  • Assist
  • Penalty Save
  • Penalty Shootout Goal
  • Penalty Shootout Miss
  • Yellow Card / Red Card
  • Red Card
  • Substitution IN
  • Substitution OUT
  • Injury
  • Goal.com Rating
  • Goal.com Man of the Match
  • Goal.com Flop of the Match
  • Top & Flop Global Ranking
  • Fans' Man of the Match
  • Fans' Flop of the Match
Results
Group A Matchday 7
Times In BST
 
Top Scorers
Player   Goals Penalties
Robin van Persie Robin van Persie
Striker
Man Utd.
11 2
Edin Dzeko Edin Dzeko
Striker
Manchester City
10 0
Mesut Özil Mesut Özil
Midfielder
Arsenal
8 3
Zlatan Ibrahimovic Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Striker
PSG
8 1
C. Ronaldo C. Ronaldo
Striker
Real Madrid
8 0