Following a gutsy display of textbook catenaccio, Egypt managed to hold out for a 1-0 victory over Italy. After taking the lead with a first half headed corner, the Pharaohs held on to leave Italy with their Confederations Cup hopes hanging in the balance.
The game started slowly as Egypt came out extremely tight, utilising a five man defence. Italy looked to pry open the Egyptian back line but with some slow approach play, and Lippi had to immediately step up from the bench and order the Azzurri side forward.
On 11 minutes, Italy had a chance to break the deadlock as a loose ball found its way to Rossi on the edge of the box. The Villarreal man did extremely well to control and turn first time, but he rushed the shot which finished inches over the bar.
The marking from Egypt was ruthless, and Italy found it impossible to use the flanks and cross from deep. The Pharaohs were clearly playing man-for-man as Rossi found himself with an Egyptian shadow in the form of Said.
On 25 minutes, Rossi took matters into his own hands as he opted to cut in from the right and shoot from distance. The effort was full of venom as it flew goal-bound. El Hadary managed to do just enough however as he tipped the ball over at full stretch.
Just after the half hour mark, the Pharaohs were dealt a blow when Zidan pulled up with a hamstring problem following a quick sprint against Cannavaro. The Egyptian top scorer showed grit to come back on after some minor treatment on the touchline.
On 39 minutes, the deadlock was finally broken when Homos scored a towering headed corner to put Egypt ahead. Italy looked stunned as they found themselves behind just before the break, just like against the USA three days earlier.
As the sides went into the break Lippi’s men looked downbeat after having failed to break down their solid opponents. Egypt had given the Azzurri a 45 minute catenaccio master class as they struck from their first real chance at goal.
On 53 minutes, the Azzurri had a golden chance to level when Iaquinta controlled an inch perfect ball over the top from Quagliarella. Unfortunately as he looked to shoot just metres from goal, El Hadrey had already mad ae drastic action to make a decisive save.
Shortly after Lippi looked to have his say on the game as he made a double switch throwing on Toni and Montolivo for Rossi and Gattuso. It was Egypt however who continued to threaten and the Azzurri were looking increasingly short of ideas as they struggled to string together any worthy attacking moves.
On 67 minutes, Italy should have levelled when Pepe whipped an inviting cross into the six yard box. Toni threw himself at the ball, but couldn’t make contact; as he watched it fly just inches past him.
On 74 minutes, Montolivo wasted a clear cut scoring opportunity as he prodded a delightful Iaquinta cutback straight at the keeper. The Viola man looked on in despair following El Hadary’s save and his face said it all in what should have been the Azzurri leveller.
In the closing stages the Azzurri began to look increasingly desperate as they opted to launch balls forward to Toni to little effect. The Egyptians continued to hit on the break and opened up numerous chances to put the result beyond doubt.
With five minutes left on the clock, Iaquinta went extremely close as he rattled the upright following a misplaced cross. As the ball zipped off the crossbar, the Pharaohs breathed a sigh of relief at what would have been an undeserved equaliser
As the teams battled it out in the dying seconds, the Azzurri had Egypt camped into their own box. The final push was to no avail however as the Pharaohs held on for their first ever win against Italy.
With a precious three points the Egyptians kept their Confederations Cup hopes alive. Italy now have one foot back on the plane as they prepare for a must win game against Brazil on Sunday.
Stefano Federici, Goal.com
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