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November 18, 2013
• Craven Cottage, London
Referee: M. Atkinson
• Attendance: 15267
G. Rossi 12'
E. Giaccherini 47'
B. Dike 35'
Shola Ameobi 39'
That's all from me for this evening guys and girls. What a wonderful game that was! Good night everyone.
FINAL WHISTLE: ITALY 2-2 NIGERIA Who said international friendlies were dull? Keshi and Prandelli's sides served up a footballing treat at Craven Cottage this evening with an end-to-end game packed with chances and flair. Rossi opened the scoring with a neat finish in the 12th minute for Italy, before Nigeria struck twice in quick succession through Dike and Ameobi to lead at the break. Then after the break Giaccherini put the finishing touches on a brilliant team move to make it 2-2. Chances aplenty followed, but a combination of the woodwork and some great saves from both goalkeepers ensured the game finished 2-2.
90' + 3'
And there is the final whistle! BREATHE.
90' + 2'
The last chance of a thrilling second half appears to fall to Cerci as he controls a high pass inside the Nigeria box and strokes a tame effort into the arms of Enyeama.
The fourth official signals for two minutes of added time at Craven Cottage. Does this game have a winner?
Yellow Card John Obi Mikel
GREAT STOP FROM ENYEAMA! The chances are still coming thick and fast in West London! Again Diamanti goes close for the Azzurri, this time his thunderous left foot effort is kept out by the well-positioned palms of Enyeama in the Nigeria goal.
DIAMANTI CRASHES IT AGAINST THE BAR! The former West Ham forward looks on in agony as his left-foot strike cannons off the woodwork with Enyeama beaten. He struck that oh so sweetly with his left foot.
Poli is caught by Egwuekwe on the edge of the Nigeria box and Italy have another inviting set piece for Pirlo, Balotelli and Diamanti to fight over...
STAT: Italy are currently on a run of three consecutive draws against Denmark, Armenia and Germany. Are they about to extend that run to four?
The Italian's swirling effort is on target, but straight at Enyeama. The Nigeria captain parries the shot comfortably before gathering it in his arms.
Yellow Card John Ogochukwu Ogu
Pirlo lines up the free kick 35 yards from Enyeama's goal...
Ogu clatters into the back of Balotelli after he had rolled the ball past the midfielder with his instep, and Atkinson deems that incident worthy of a yellow card.
You would back Balo to score there! Parolo whips an inviting ball to the striker at the back post from the right, but he takes his eye off the ball at the vital moment and it flicks off his shin and out for a throw.
AND NOW EMENIKE GOES CLOSE! The Nigeria striker crashes an effort into the side-netting after bursting through on goal on the left. This is end-to-end stuff at Craven Cottage.
SCRAP THAT! GREAT STOP FROM SIRIGU! The Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper dives to his left to keep out Ogu's rasping strike from 25 yards. This game is still open after all!
Benjamin gets back well to block a cross from the right by Parolo as Italy attack once more. The Azzurri look the more likely side to find a breakthrough as we head into the final 15 minutes of this friendly.
FACT: The proceeds from tonight’s game will go to the victims of the typhoon in the Philippines, in conjunction with UNICEF.
So nearly glorious from Balotelli! Diamanti picked him out with a sublime pass from the right and he took a couple of touches on the left side of the Nigeria box before curling a devilish effort just wide of the top right corner.
GREEDY FROM CERCI! The Torino man, a recently introduced substitute, cuts in from the left and swings an effort some way wide, while under the watchful gaze of Mario Balotelli.
Free kick for Milan after Ogu catches Parolo. Pirlo tries to take advantage of a dazed Nigeria defence with a quick set piece as he sets Balotelli away, but the striker's first-time backheel towards Diamanti is intercepted by Kwambe.
Sadly Eijde is going to have to make way for the Super Eagles. Their first-choice goalkeeper, Vincent Enyeama, comes on at his expense.
Ahmed Firaz Moosa
Ameobi departs to a smattering of applause from the Craven Cottage crowd as he is replaced, just moments after a Mexican wave swept around the stadium.
The break in play gives Balotelli a chance to exchange pleasantries with his team-mate Parolo. A wide grin spreads across the former Manchester City attacker's face – which is always nice to see. He's been very hot and cold for his current club Milan this season.
Ejide, who has been great for the Super Eagles in goal tonight, is receiving a bit of a treatment from the Nigeria physios before Italy take a corner over on the left. He will not want to go off in the form he's in.
PAROLO STRIKES THE POST!! Italy go within a whisker of taking the lead as the Parma midfielder's fizzing shot from 10 yards cannons back off the left-hand post and away to safety.
PAROLI MISSES A SITTER! Ejide parries Pirlo's curling effort into the Italy substitute's path, but his attempt flies high into the stands. Balotelli, who was standing just behind the midfielder, looked distinctly unimpressed by that finish.
Yellow Card Azubuike Egwueke
That's a horrid foul from Egwuekwe! The Nigeria defender cynically blocks Balotelli as he tries to latch on to a throughball from Diamanti. The referee stops play, shows the centre-back a yellow card, and awards Italy a free kick in a menacing position.
And there we go again. Pirlo picks out Diamanti with a driven high pass this time, and he fires a first-time cross towards Balotelli in the box. The ball does not reach the Milan man though, due to a fine diving block from Kwambe.
Oh Andrea stop it! Pirlo's first touch of the game is a sumptuous one. He looks up and carves a brilliant pass over to Diamanti on the left-hand side from the centre circle.
Prandelli decides to make a host of changes. Alessandro Diamanti, Andrea Pirlo and Marco Parolo replace Montolivo, Rossi and Motta for the Azzurri.
The Nigeria substitute John Ogu thumps a header over from the corner as the African side try and reclaim their lead.
Nigeria win a free kick over on the left, which Moses fires invitingly into the Italy box, but no green shirts are able to connect with the cross, as the ball flicks off a white sock and goes out for a corner.
Moments before Giacherrini scored that goal Ejide had pulled off a super stop from close range to keep out an acrobatic half volley from Balotelli. The goalkeeper may be second-choice for the Super Eagles behind Vincent Enyeama, but he is putting on a very good performance for Keshi's men.
Assist Antonio Candreva
Goal Emanuele Giaccherini
GIACCHERINI MAKES IT 2-2! The Sunderland man provides a clinical finale to a fine Azzurri move. Balotelli backheeled the ball into the path of Rossi on the right. He flicked it into Candreva, who quickly slid it to Giaccherini. The tiny attacker then made no mistake with his finish from 12 yards, as he calmly swept the ball past Ejide.
John Ogochukwu Ogu
BRILLIANT TACKLE FROM OBOABONA! The centre-back slides in to steal the ball away from Balotelli just as he pulls back the trigger to shoot at goal.
Italy get the second half underway at Craven Cottage. Let's hope this 45 minutes continues in a similar vein to how the first period ended.
I do not understand Shola Ameobi. According to some of his team-mates he has absolutely unplayable in training, but he so often fails to deliver in actual competitive games. Tonight though – he's on form – and has scored an absolute belter to put his side ahead.
HALF-TIME: ITALY 1-2 NIGERIA Keshi's side lead at the break despite going behind to a well-taken dinked finish from Rossi in the 12th minute. Dike drew Nigeria level with a deft header in the 35th minute before Ameobi produced a moment of magic to beat Sirigu with a super near-post volley to make it 2-1. It's been a marvelous opening 45 minutes, so don't go away for the second half.
45' + 1'
Martin Atkinson blows his whistle to mark the end of an exhilarating first half!
Nigeria win a throw high on the right-hand side as Ogbonna dispossesses Onazi, but they fail to test Sirigu on this occasion, as Moses blasts a shot high over the bar.
Fulham fans will not have seen many games as exciting as this under Martin Jol at this ground this season.
It's hard to keep up! This game is so open as we career towards half-time at Craven Cottage.
AUDACIOUS FROM BALOTELLI! An Italy move appears to have broken down as the ball balloons into the air 25 yards out, but Balotelli has other ideas, caressing the ball over his head with his right foot as it falls before letting it bounce and firing a shot at goal. Sadly, it was straight at Ejide. That would have been some goal.
Assist Francis Benjamin
Goal Shola Ameobi
OPEN UP THE TOP DRAWER! WHAT A GOAL FROM AMEOBI! The Newcastle frontman produces a Zlatan-esque finish to flick a volley past Sirigu at the near post to put Nigeria ahead. Benjamin played a brilliant one-two with Moses before whipping a cross to Ameobi to set the striker up, but he still had so much to do to beat Sirigu from that angle.
Tip of the hat to Ameobi in the build-up to that goal by the way. The Newcastle man found Dike with a delightful chipped cross from the left-hand side.
Assist Shola Ameobi
Goal B. Dike
DIKE NODS NIGERIA LEVEL!! The Oklahoma-born forward, who plies his trade with Toronto FC, draws Keshi's side level with a well-taken header into the bottom corner. That's his first goal for the Super Eagles and didn't he enjoy it!
Dike sends an inviting pass down the line to Ameobi on the right but the Newcastle United legend does not appear to fancy shifting through the gears on this occasion, and the ball runs out for a goal kick.
SMART STOP FROM EJIDE! The Nigeria goalkeeper tightens the angle as Balotelli steams through on goal on the right and then jabs out a strong right arm to stop the Italian's fizzing shot from finding the bottom left corner.
The Nigeria fans are enjoying what they are seeing tonight, despite their side being on the wrong side of a 1-0 scoreline at present. Their players are playing without fear, with Onazi the latest to bring some flair to the table by twisting and turning past Rossi and then Montolivo in midfield.
Lovely from Moses! And then Ameobi too! The Nigeria frontmen bamboozle the Italy defence with a series of neat touches, the last of which creates the latter with a chance to swing an effort at goal from the right-hand side of the penalty box. Sirigu watches it all the way though and calmly catches the ball underneath his crossbar.
Jon Obi Mikel is up to his usual tricks, playing the ball simple at all times. His sometime Chelsea team-mate Victor Moses is showing far more ambition for the Super Eagles, by dribbling at the Italy defence at every opportunity.
Balotelli has a chance to test Ejide with a set piece from 30 yards but his driven strike is straight into the wall – a disappointing effort from the enigmatic Italian.
STAT: Tonight marks Prandelli 50th match in charge of Italy. So far he has won 24, drawn 14 and lost 11. Interestingly, eight of those defeats have come in friendlies.
Italy come close to a second as Montolivo slides a shot wide after sauntering into the penalty area to meet a cut-back from the byline by Gaccherini.
Ogbonna is not getting the warmest of receptions at Craven Cottage this evening. The Italy centre-back's parents are both Nigerian...
Onazi tries to swerve a lofted pass into the left-hand channel to Ameobi, but there is not enough on the pass and Victor Ogbonna is able to nip in and seize the ball for Italy.
Yellow Card Antonio Candreva
That's naughty from Candreva! After surrendering possession cheaply he sprints back to try and retrieve it, but only succeeds in thundering through the back of Moses as he bursts over the halfway line for Nigeria. Atkinson takes a dim view of that challenge and books the Italy attacker.
Balotelli, Rossi and Candreva switch possession in the blink of an eye as the Azzurri break on the counter, but the Lazio man's decision-making is awry on this occasion and Egwuekwe is able to track back and steal the ball.
That partnership up front for Italy is certainly looking promising in the opening exchanges tonight. Rossi may not have played for Italy since October 2011, but he looks right at home playing for his national side. Now all Prandelli needs to do is wrap him in cotton wool until June.
Azubuike Egwuekwe throws out a desperate leg to block a fierce shot from Balotelli, after the Milan man had been teed up 30 yards from goal by his strike-partner Rossi.
Onazi rifles an effort at goal from distance, only to see his strike kept out by a sprawling save from Sirigu! What an open start we have had here in West London.
Assist Mario Balotelli
Goal Giuseppe Rossi
MARVELLOUS OPENING GOAL FOR ITALY!! Balotelli has barely featured in the opening 12 minutes, but his first real involvement is a telling one at Craven Cottage. The Milan forward holds the ball up superbly before spinning and flicking a pass into the stride of the in-form Rossi. The diminutive striker controls the ball well on his way into the box before dinking it over Austin Ejide to make it 1-0 to the Azzurri!
Emanuele Giaccherini bundles his way into the box on the left-hand side for Italy and appears to be caught as he tries to burst past Kwambe. Despite fluttering his eyelashes towards the referee Martin Atkinson, the man in black is unimpressed and waves play on.
Nigeria are not giving Italy any time on the ball, with Onazi in particular flying into tackles early on in this first half. The powerful midfielder will be familiar with many of these players having faced them in Serie A and he already looks fairly pumped for this fixture!
Montolivo sends a hopeful looping pass in the direction of Balotelli but the ball is stopped before it reaches him by the alert Solomon Kwambe.
Rossi, making his first start for the Azzurri in more than two years, tries to flick a free kick from the right towards Andrea Ranocchia on the penalty spot, but Francis Benjamin is on hand to nod the ball away for the Super Eagles.
AMBITIOUS FROM MOSES! The Liverpool loanee looks to catch Sirigu out with a neat effort towards the bottom left corner, but sadly for the raucous Nigeria fans in the stands the ball rolls the wrong side of the post and out for a goal-kick.
Nigeria win a free kick in a tasty position early on after Motta is penalised for clipping the heels of Onazi. Moses looks like he fancies this one...
Antonio Candreva is playing just behind Rossi and Balotelli for Prandelli's side tonight, having started the season strongly for Lazio. I support his inclusion, but not his shirt number. The attacker is wearing No.6 tonight. What is that all about?
Nigeria get us underway, but Italy immediately put pressure on Moses on the left and the ball flick out for a throw-in.
The rain drizzles down at Craven Cottage in London as we approach kick-off. In charge tonight, that man Martin Atkinson.
NIGERIA TEAM NEWS: Stephen Keshi, meanwhile, also opts to switch things up a bit, with seven changes to his team that were victorious against Ethiopia at the weekend. Serie A fans will recognise Ogenyi Onazi, the Lazio midfielder starts in midfield for the Super Eagles this evening. Elsewhere, the brilliantly-named Bright Dike completes an attacking three that boasts Premier League duo Shola Ameobi and Victor Moses.
ITALY TEAM NEWS: Cesare Prandelli gets the chance to try Giuseppe Rossi alongside Mario Balotelli in attack for the Azzurri, with the Fiorentina striker missing their 1-1 draw with Germany last week because of tonsilitis. The former Manchester United man has been in inspired form for his club side this season, having overcome the horrors of a double ACL injury.
NIGERIA (4-3-3): Ejide; Kwambe, Francis, Oboabona, Egwuekwe; Onazi, Mikel, Oduamadi; Moses, Dike, Shola Ameobi
ITALY (4-3-1-2): Sirigu; Maggio, Ranocchia, Ogbonna, Pasqual; Motta, Montolivo, Giaccherini; Candreva; Rossi, Balotelli
Without further ado, let's have a quick peek at the starting line-ups ahead of kick-off...
Nigeria come into the game in buoyant spirits having sealed their spot at Brazil 2014 with a 2-0 win over Ethiopia in Calabar on Saturday, while Italy romped through their qualification group unbeaten to qualify for next summer's tournament.
My name is Charlie Scott and I'll be guiding you through the twists and turns of this one, as both coaches grab the opportunity to rotate their squads and take a look at some of those players in contention for a spot in their final World Cup squads.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to LIVE coverage of the international friendly between Italy and Nigeria, which takes place at Craven Cottage of all places.
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