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September 10, 2013
• Juventus Stadium, Torino
Referee: J. Eriksson
• Attendance: 35299
G. Chiellini 51'
M. Balotelli 54'
L. Kozák 19'
It's been a pleasure folks, bye for now.
It seemed set to be one of those nights for the Italians, who were behind at the break after missing a slew of first half chances. But a three-minute salvo in the second half, courtesy of a Chiellini header and Balotelli penalty has seen off the ten man visitors. Italy through to the finals, while the Czechs have a lot of work to do to steal second place in the two games that remain.
90' + 5'
Done and done! Italy have qualified for the 2014 World Cup!
90' + 4'
It's all just about slipped away from the visitors...nearly there for Italy...
90' + 2'
Close shave for Italy, who fail to deal with a cross into the box, allowing Kozak room for a shot...but he pokes it right at Buffon.
90' + 1'
Into stoppage time here, of which there will be four minutes.
Yellow/Red Daniel Kolar
The visitors down to ten men! Kolar, who only came on in the first half for Rosicky, is booked for hacking down Balotelli, his second yellow, and he marches straight down the tunnel.
Deep cross, purposeful header, but wide from Balotelli. That could have iced it.
Five minutes left for Italy, not exactly to hold on, but rather to stay on course. It's all set for them.
The Czech Republic do realize that they now trail Italy, Bulgaria and Denmark in Group B, right? Needs to be far more urgency on their end.
The set piece is headed out by the first man, but Candreva is on the rebound, slamming it about a foot wide of the post.
Candreva hacked to the turf by Rabusic, giving Italy a free-kick in a not-terrible position on the right hand side.
It's the end of Pasqual's night, on comes Ogbonna to replace him. Let's hope he can get that wound patched up soon.
Yellow Card Libor Kozák
Theodor Gebre Selassie
Kozak, the challenger for the ball in that sequence, has been booked, rather harshly in my opinion. No malice in that challenge at all, despite the gruesome injury.
Speaking of Pasqual, he's taken a dreadful-looking gash on his forehead after challenging for a high ball. Blood is gushing out of the wound and the stretchers have been called. Not pretty.
Italy playing more on the counter, confident to sit deep and defend. The wingbacks Maggio and Pasqual have abandoned all attacking intent, making it essentially a back five for Italy.
This game is really dying a slow death. Italy have achieved all they need to, and the Czechs just have not looked the same since Rosicky departed with a knock, coincidence or not.
Balotelli wrestled to the turf by Selassie, who concedes another cheap foul against the Milan player.
Jiracek out of nowhere bursts through the middle and drills towards goal, but Buffon is more than equal to it.
A Czech attack falters before it ever really got going. The oomph sipping out of this one, which will suit Italy perfectly.
Into the final half-hour of the game, and as thing stand, the FIGC will have to start looking into flight arrangements to Brazil.
Yellow Card Daniel Kolar
That sucker-punch from Italy has knocked all the stuffing out of the Czech Republic. Italy looking comfortable and poised.
Disappointing, Pirlo cannot beat the wall from the set piece.
Now Italy have a free kick about 22 yards out. Balo is batting his eyelids towards this one, but there's only one man for it...
It's unnerving how deadly Balotelli is from the penalty spot, as he sends another keeper to pick the ball out of the back of the net from 12 yards. Cech looked resigned to his fate, he was so badly wrong-footed by Balotelli in that spot kick.
Yellow Card Theodor Gebre Selassie
Penalty Goal Mario Balotelli
NO DOUBT ABOUT IT! Balotelli sends Cech the wrong way to complete a rapid turnaround from Italy!
PENALTY! Clumsiness more than anything from the fullback, who bundled over Balo, who himself is primed to take the spot kick.
Italy have their tails up now and are pushing for a second as Balotelli goes down under pressure from Selassie...
Assist Antonio Candreva
Goal Giorgio Chiellini
And in comes one from Chiellini! The corner comes in, Cech flaps under pressure, and the Juve defender nods home in front of his home fans!
Bulgaria have defeated Malta 2-1, a result that Italy need to match to qualify on the night...simply meaning that the Azurri need two goals.
Cech has the measure of Balotelli once again, this time pushing away the striker's piledriver to start the second half.
Pablo Daniel Osvaldo
Here we go again!
That's it for the first half folks. Kozak has given the Czech Republic the narrowest of leads against a profligate, profligate Italy side, who should reasonably be expected to be out of sight, with the chances Balotelli has had. Join us for the restart in a bit.
45' + 2'
Wow. With one of the last kicks of the half, the visitors almost double their lead. Darida's low cross is left by Jiracek, fooling the defence for a split second while Kozak whacks it towards goal from 15 yards...but narrowly misses the target.
45' + 1'
Into the first of two added minutes.
There's no excuse really for Italy going into the break behind, as Candreva bends one towards the bottom corner, prompting Cech into a fine parry.
De Rossi striding forward into the opposite box, but just can't keep his balance when attempting to connect with a deep Giaccherini cross under pressure from the defence.
Montolivo slices a 20-yard effort rather horribly and Cech only has to watch it sail halfway up the stands.
Pity for the visitors, as the Arsenal man looked one of their brighter prospects, especially leading the break.
Somewhere, Arsene Wenger just punched something as Tomas Rosicky is off injured, Kolar coming on in his stead.
Paging Alberto Gilardino! Balotelli has failed to convert another great opening with a point blank header, although to be fair, Cech did make a good reaction save.
Bonucci cannot pick out a single teammate with a punt forward, and Cech resets with the goalkick.
Giaccherini narrowly called offside just when he looked like breaking through. The Sunderland man has appeared the most likely source of a breakthrough for the Azzurri.
Balotelli has just been booked for a hint of a stamp, arriving late on a prone Czech player. Replays prove just about inconclusive, but the ref perhaps had a better view of that one.
Yellow Card Mario Balotelli
Darida and Rosicky link up in an eerily similar deep position that led to the opener, but this time Italy get a body in the way - De Rossi makes the tackle.
Balotelli has had three good chances in this game, two of them absolute sitters. One wonders whether his wastefulness will come back to bite him and his side.
Oh dear, the Milan striker was presented with a quick chance to make amends after Cech spills a Montolivo shot, but spoons the follow up into orbit from another seemingly inevitable position!
BALOTELLI SHANKS IT! Giaccherini with another fine piece of play out wide, teeing up the striker from point blank range, who somehow hits the bar with the goal gaping!
Now where is the Italian response?
Assist Petr Jirácek
Goal Libor Kozák
THERE IT IS! Out of nowhere, the visitors take the lead, Rosicky playing in Jiracek, whose ball in is slammed home by Kozak!
Italy looking dangerous as they continue to up the tempo in the opposition half, where is the Czech response?
And again, the Milan striker just misses connecting on a dangerous cross from Pasqual, with Sivok the brave soul getting his head in the way.
Balo forces the first save of the game with a good low shot from 18 yards, that Cech gets a meaty paw to.
Balotelli, playing up front on his own, is dropping increasingly into midfield to link with Pirlo and Montolivo, allowing Giaccherini and Co. to push in the space behind from the flanks. All the thrust coming from Italy's wide areas.
Gebre Selassie snatches at a half chance just inside the Italy box and sends it miles over. First real glimpse of goal for the Czechs.
Pasqual and Maggio are piling forward in the early goings, pushing well beyond Giaccheirini and Candreva out wide on the overlap. Italy tightening the screw.
Balotelli just sells Giaccherini short with a pass out to the flanks. Had he weighted that one properly, the new Premier League man might just have been in.
No touch yet for Gianluigi Buffon, who incidentally is making his 136th Italy appearance, a record shared by Fabio Cannavaro.
The fans in a raucous mood inside the Juventus Stadium as Italy make a positive start to the contest.
Here we go!
Kickoff is only moments away as the Azzurri look to seal qualification for the finals tonight - they can do so by matching or bettering Bulgaria's result against Malta.
CZECH REPUBLIC: Cech; Gebre Selassie, Sivok, M Kladec; Limbersky, Plasil, Darida, Husbauer, Rosicky; Jiracek, Kozak.
ITALY: Buffon; Bonucci, De Rossi, Chiellini; Maggio, Montolivo, Pirlo, Pasqual; Candreva, Giaccherini; Balotelli.
First, our teams.
Welcome to The Uefa World Cup Qualifying match between Italy and the Czech Republic. I'm Keeghann Sinanan, and I'll be taking you through the play by play.
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