Italy – Scotland: Hosts hardly break sweat as they score twice in second half
Italy were gearing up their World Cup preparations with a third home friendly in two months. As they had scheduled to be playing each of their pre-tournament home friendlies in different cities, the turn had come to Perugia in central Italy, capital of the Umbria region. Their two previous matches had both yielded wins, 2-1 against Norway and 1-0 against the Netherlands respectively, though gli Azzurri had failed to impress. Still, it was early days, with a year and a half yet until the start of Italia ’90.
Italy’s opponents in the intimate Renato Curi stadium were Scotland, who had begun their qualification campaign well with an away win in Norway and a home draw against group favourites Yugoslavia. Would they prove a sound opponent for an Italian team still early in their preparations? The Scottish were surely aiming to be one of two to make it through from UEFA zone qualifying Group 5, and to them this would’ve been a fine indicator as to whereabouts they were in comparison with some of Europe’s alledgedly finest.
New France assistant manager (and technical director) Gérard Houllier was one of the ‘spies’ present. 1989 will see two major confrontations between France and Scotland, the first of which will take place at Hampden Park in March.
The two teams had agreed beforehand, as per norm for friendlies, that they may include six substitutes each.
Italy team news
Against the Netherlands last month, Italy had been without regular goalkeeper Walter Zenga. It is unclear for what reason, as he had been playing for his Internazionale club side both prior to and immediately in the wake of that friendly. Here, though, the 28 year old was back and ready to add to his tally of 22 caps. Previous back-up ‘keeper Giuliano Giuliani of Napoli had been ousted, with Perugia born Stefano Tacconi, who had kept goal against the Dutch, a likely deputee.
Italy supremo Azeglio Vicini had six defenders available to him, and perhaps did this suggest that he would opt for a different tactical approach than the 3-5-2 which he had made use of in both of their two previous friendlies? There were the usual suspects of Internazionale duo Giuseppe Bergomi and Riccardo Ferri, as well as AC Milan couple Paolo Maldini and libero elect Franco Baresi. In addition, the manager could also make use of Napoli players Ciro Ferrara and Giovanni Francini should he wish. Ferrara had got game time coming on as a sub in both the two previous games, whilst left-sided option Francini last had been in action during a pre-European Championships friendly against Yugoslavia (1-1). He was listed with eight caps to Ferrara’s six.
Once again, Italy were without AC Milan midfield man Roberto Donadoni, who had recently returned to first team action with Rossoneri since a spell on the sidelines. Donadoni had come off after taking a big hit from Norway defender Terje Kojedal in the October friendly, though he had featured at club level since. Another midfield absentee on this occasion was Napoli’s workhorse Fernando De Napoli, who had come off at half-time during his club side’s 3-1 home win against Bologna the previous weekend. De Napoli was struggling with a foot injury, and Italy obviously did not want to aggravate his injury, and so let him rest for this fixture. To further complicate Italian midfield selection, even Juventus’ fine 27 year old Luigi De Agostini was out injured. He had not been in action since leaving the pitch 29 minutes into his club team’s league contest with Lecce on November 27.
Brought into the squad for possible debuts were Juventus’ left-footed 23 year old Giancarlo Marocchi and Napoli’s highly energetic wide man Massimo Crippa, also 23. Other midfielders that signore Vicini could draw use from were Internazionale’s Nicola Berti, who had featured in both friendlies so far this autumn and early winter, and of course Roma’s Giuseppe Giannini, who appeared to be the manager’s first choice for the playmaker’s role. Then there was also Luca Fusi of Napoli, whose two caps had come in the build-up to the European Championships. Fusi was 25 years of age, and renowned for his footballing intelligence. A further candidate for a midfield role was of course Roberto Baggio, although solely in an attacking capacity. The delightfully skillful 21 year old from Fiorentina had made his debut against the Dutch, and he had provided matchwinner Vialli with the assist.
It was just as likely, though, that Baggio was a candidate for one of the two forward roles, although Sampdoria’s Gianluca Vialli was usually someone whom Mr Vicini would never look beyond. The two had worked well in tandem against the Netherlands. On that occasion, Baggio’s Viola team mate Stefano Borgonovo had remained an option from the substitutes’ bench throughout, though this time around Borgonovo had been replaced with another aerially strong striker in Internazionale’s Aldo Serena, a 28 year old with eight caps to his name. Having not been selected last time out, Sampdoria’s highly intelligent forward Roberto Mancini was back in the matchday squad again. Roma’s Ruggiero Rizzitelli was replaced. It is in fact possible that Rizzitelli was injured. He had come off during Roma’s recent 1-0 home win against Como, and he would subsequently miss out on their next two league matches before returning in the new year.
Scotland team news
Having enjoyed a fine start to the qualification campaign, Scotland would be looking to experiment somewhat for this friendly occasion in Perugia; it was as if they were left with little choice. Their last game had been the 1-1 home draw against Yugoslavia two months earlier, with their next qualifier taking place early in February with a trip to Cyprus.
Scotland manager Andy Roxburgh would have to make do without some reliable performers. From the 16 who had made up the matchday squad against Yugoslavia, four were out. They were experienced Aberdeen defender Willie Miller, who had captained the side on that occasion, Liverpool’s versatile 27 year old Steve Nicol, Norwich goalkeeper Bryan Gunn, who had been Andy Goram’s understudy for that game, as well as Rangers striker Ally McCoist, who had come on to decent effect during the second half at Hampden. Crucially too, big Liverpool defender Gary Gillespie was still out for his extended spell on the sidelines, and there was also no Ian Durrant, midfield man from Rangers, or Graeme Sharp, the powerful Everton centre-forward. This certainly left a feeling of the Scottish being somewhat depleted.
With the squad counting 17 players on this occasion, it meant that five men had come in. They were goalkeeper Henry Smith, a 32 year old from Edinburgh club Heart of Midlothian, who had been capped once: During a 2-2 friendly draw in Saudi Arabia back in February. There was a return to the national team for big Dundee United defender David Narey, who probably was best remembered for his goal against that Brazil team in the 1982 World Cup. Scotland had lost 4-1, but it was the now 32 year old who had notched the opening goal. Another big defender brought into the squad was Hearts’ Dave MacPherson, a previously uncapped 24 year old, whilst Rangers’ 21 year old midfield man Ian Ferguson was a candidate for his international debut. Last but not least, there was also the addition of Chelsea striker Gordon Durie. The 23 year old had made his debut in what proved to be a famous win in Bulgaria (1-0) in the penultimate game of the European Championships qualification. It was the win which had rewarded their home nations colleagues of the Republic of Ireland with a berth in the finals.
Unsurprisingly, Scotland had been in 4-4-2 in both of their first two qualifiers. Despite the absence of defensive chief Miller, they still looked a relatively solid outfit, and would they be able to fend the Italians off and deny gli Azzurri their third successive friendly win since the European Championships?
44 year old Frenchman Alain Delmer was in charge of the friendly. This was his eighth international fixture since his debut back in 1977, when he’d overseen a friendly game between Switzerland and Finland (2-0) in Zurich. He had since been put in charge of two qualifiers: A 2-1 home win for Northern Ireland against Turkey ahead of the 1984 European Championships, and a 3-1 away win for the Bulgarian Olympic select against their Greek counterparts in qualification for the 1984 tournament in the United States. Delmer had previously not refereed either of Italy or Scotland.
This was the fourth ever meeting between the two nations. A 1931 friendly in Rome (3-0 to the hosts) apart, they had met in qualification for the 1966 World Cup. They had both won their home ties, although Italy more convincingly than the Scottish (3-0 vs 1-0), and it would be the Italians who would make it through to the finals from that particular qualification group. This was their first head to head in just over 23 years.
Kicking off in early afternoon, the playing conditions appeared to be impeccable, with rays of sunshine reaching the pristine looking pitch. There also did not seem to be any wind causing the two teams trouble.
|1 Walter Zenga||sub 51′||28||Internazionale|
|2 Giuseppe Bergomi (c)||sub 51′||25||Internazionale|
|3 Paolo Maldini||20||AC Milan|
|4 Franco Baresi||28||AC Milan|
|5 Riccardo Ferri||25||Internazionale|
|6 Giancarlo Marocchi||23||Juventus|
|7 Massimo Crippa||23||Napoli|
|8 Nicola Berti||21||Internazionale|
|9 Gianluca Vialli||24||Sampdoria|
|10 Giuseppe Giannini||24||Roma|
|11 Aldo Serena||28||Internazionale|
|12 Stefano Tacconi||on 51′||31||Juventus|
|13 Ciro Ferrara||on 51′||21||Napoli|
|14 Giovanni Francini||25||Napoli|
|15 Luca Fusi||25||Sampdoria|
|16 Roberto Baggio||21||Fiorentina|
|17 Roberto Mancini||24||Sampdoria|
|1 Andy Goram||24||Hibernian|
|2 Richard Gough||sub 87′||26||Rangers|
|3 Maurice Malpas||26||Dundee United|
|4 David Narey||32||Dundee United|
|5 Alex McLeish||29||Aberdeen|
|6 Murdo MacLeod||30||Borussia Dortmund|
|7 Ian Ferguson||sub 76′||21||Rangers|
|8 Paul McStay||sub 56′||24||Celtic|
|9 Kevin Gallacher||22||Dundee United|
|10 Roy Aitken (c)||30||Celtic|
|11 Maurice Johnston||25||Nantes|
|12 Henry Smith||32||Hearts|
|13 Dave MacPherson||24||Hearts|
|14 David Speedie||on 87′||28||Coventry|
|15 Brian McClair||on 56′||25||Manchester United|
|16 Jim Bett||29||Aberdeen|
|17 Gordon Durie||on 76′||23||Chelsea|
It was a sunny early afternoon in Perugia, and with a packed and intimate Renato Curi all set for its second ever Italian international, the marching band left the pitch to ovasions from the vociferous crowd. They’d performed the two national anthems impeccably, and the hosts would kick the first half into action, attacking towards right as the cameras were watching. Ahead of kick-off, there was a minute’s silence for the tragic occurence the previous evening, when a Pan Am flight en route from London to New York came down over the small Scottish town of Lockerbie, causing huge losses of life, including several people on the ground.
With referee Alain Delmer ready to sound his whistle, Italy would get two attempts at kicking off before the first half could commence, as Nicola Berti had been too eager to cross the halfway line. Finally, Italy’s forward duo of Aldo Serena and Gianluca Vialli could get the game under way.
Against the Netherlands, Italy had often been second best for possession. However, against a somewhat depleted Scottish outfit, they ought to be the ones dictating proceedings. Not to say that the Scottish have ever been a fearsome folk: They do not just retract back deep inside their own half in protection of what they have got from the outset. Still, they are up against a determined Italian outfit which is out to set the record straight. Even if the Italians had won their previous international, there must have been a level of disappointment with how that game had at times slipped out of their control. The first three minutes of this fixture see the reinstalled Nicola Berti in the thick of the action, as he wins a free-kick in the centre circle, concedes a free-kick of his own well inside his own half, and also feeds the ball back to his ‘keeper through the aid of his chest after a Scotland left wing cross from Murdo MacLeod.
Berti, the 21 year young midfield starlet of Milano club Internazionale, was one of the players whom Azeglio Vicini had brought into contention since the summer’s European Championships. He’d made his debut from start in the Norway game, where he had indeed won the Italians a (very fortuitous) penalty, and he’d come on against the Dutch. Here, he was part of what appeared to be a three man central midfield for the hosts, in operation to the right of their most central figure Giuseppe Giannini. The latter was famous for his elegance and terrific creative skills, and so to have someone as energetic as Berti running off him seemed a good fit.
Italy were clearly equipped with a three man central defensive line on this occasion, and whilst their team captain, the rock solid and hugely dependable Giuseppe Bergomi, who had been a World Cup winner at the tender age of 18, was working as one of three central defenders, he still had the freedom to come forward, almost as if he were in a right-back position. Of course, the latter role was one with which he was very familiar, and just three and a half minutes into the game, he would make it to the byline inside the Scottish penalty area and win the hosts their very first corner of the game. He had been played in by Gianluca Vialli, another player who certainly liked to exploit the attacking right-sided territory.
It had been the tall and somewhat gangly David Narey who had conceded the corner from Bergomi’s attempted cross. Narey had been on the bench for Scotland’s win in Norway, but was not in the squad for the Yugoslavia match. Here, the veteran Dundee United defender had been thrust into the centre of the visitors’ defence, perhaps due to other players missing, though there was not a lot to dispute his experience: Narey had made his national team debut as far back as 1977, when the Scottish had defeated Sweden by 3-1 in a Glasgow friendly. This was his 34th cap.
The first opportunity to fire on target comes from the corner, when the ball is played into the centre by Italy’s regular flag kick taker Giannini. It will find its way to Maldini almost out by the border of the area in a central position, and the young defender manages to steady himself for a left foot shot. However, it is blocked, though only as far as into the path of Vialli, who is only eight yards out and just to the left of goal. The ball arrives to him perhaps a little too hastily for him to be able to orientate himself, and even if he has no defenders immediately between himself and Scotland ‘keeper Andy Goram, he fails to produce a stinging finish. It is almost as if it is a controlled back-pass which ends up into the grasp of the gleefully accepting Goram. Had Vialli been able to predict that the ball would travel to him, he’d have been in a better position to produce a greater test for the Hibernian custodian.
For the British side, Celtic midfield man Paul McStay, quite an experienced campaigner on the international stage despite him just being 24 years of age (this was his 33rd cap), would be the one they looked to when they wanted to shift the ball in the forward direction. Whether it was correct or not to use the word ‘playmaker’ for his role, he was certainly the one with the greater such responsibilities. And McStay had shown in Scotland’s two qualifiers this autumn that he was well capable of dealing with this level of opposition. He had even scored during the win in Oslo. He did seem inspired early on, looking to feed the lively Kevin Gallacher to the right. Whilst McStay had been a vital part of the Scottish midfield against Yugoslavia, Gallacher had been placed among the substitutes for that tie after an impressive display against the Norwegians. The young Dundee United forward seemed to have a spring in his step, though he would have to try and wriggle free from one of the most respected man-markers in the business in Riccardo Ferri.
The hosts show some fine combinations play in midfield, and they often try to work the ball out into wide positions. Their midfield had hardly been their best feature against the Netherlands, but on this occasion they clearly have a better idea of how to dominate this particular region of the pitch. Along their right hand side is debutant Massimo Crippa, a 23 year old who is yet another performer deserving the tag ‘energetic’. He is part of a highly impressive Napoli side, and on this occasion he has slotted into the place left vacant through the absence of Fernando De Napoli, his team mate from club level: Crippa is working along the touchline in Italy’s 3-5-2 formation. Having the legs and lungs to run up and down the pitch, he is an asset to the team, and he is probably a better attacking force than said De Napoli. However, inside the Italian half of the pitch he does well in leaving responsibility with others, predominantly with Bergomi inside him. 12 minutes into the game, Crippa manages to cross the ball from a difficult position right upon the touchline, with MacLeod in close contention, though alert goalkeeping by Goram sees the Scotland stopper arrive to the ball before striker Aldo Serena.
Aitken draws a save
If McStay seemed to be the one the Scottish would look to for distribution, the midfielder would’ve been delighted to once again have his Celtic team mate Roy Aitken next to him. Whereas Aitken had held the captaincy during the win in Norway, he’d surrendered this task to veteran defender Willie Miller for the game against the Yugoslavs. With no Miller in the side, Aitken was once again the player wearing the armband for the visitors. The 30 year old was a typically committed British player, whose defensive capability was superior to his attacking ditto. Still, he would be the first Scot to draw a save from Walter Zenga, as he connected cleanly after a neat touch from Gallacher some 28 yards out on 14 minutes. Aitken struck well with his right boot, and Zenga had to throw himself to the left in order to tip the ball out for a Scotland right wing corner. It is possible that the ball could’ve ended up somewhere just inside the post; the trajectory had looked promising. The corner would yield nothing but an Alex McLeish lob straight into the waiting arms of the Italian goalkeeper from outside the area.
The opening 20 minutes had not produced sparkling attacking football from either side, though the Scottish would’ve been very content to hold their own. The pace of the game was not superb, as sometimes the Italian players appeared to spend too much time on the ball before moving it on to a team mate. It became relatively manageable for the visitors to regroup after losing possession, and they would look after well the Italian attackers deploying a rare, from their point of view, 3-5-2 formation. With the Scottish being a little makeshift, perhaps had the hosts expected something else from them?
So, the visitors had arrived clad in a different formation to what they had utilized for their two autumn qualifiers: They were wrapped in a 5-3-2 on this occasion, whilst they’d been set up in 4-4-2 for both Norway away and Yugoslavia at home. Andy Roxburgh would later say in the post-match press conference that he felt he had little choice, as his squad was so diminished through “all those absentees”. However, it should be pointed out that nine of the players who had started the 1-1 match against the highly rated Yugoslavs were available here in Perugia, too. Still, the manager had placed two of them on the bench: Left-sided player Jim Bett, who had switched from left during the first half across to right after the break in that previous qualifier, and forward Brian McClair, who on both the two previous occasions had started up top, but who had then been pulled back into a midfield position.
The total of four players coming into the Scottish eleven were David Narey, Murdo MacLeod, Ian Ferguson and Kevin Gallacher. It might not have been Roxburgh’s first pick eleven, but it was certainly not a weak line-up.
Andy Goram had come in between the sticks for the Yugoslavia qualifier after Jim Leighton had been left out, and he’d done well. The Hibernian ‘keeper had got the nod again on this occasion, with his cross city rival from the other topflight Edinburgh club Heart of Midlothian’s Henry Smith on the bench.
The three central defenders lining up ahead of Goram were positioned in a clear order, from right to left: Richard Gough, David Narey and Alex McLeish. They were three really sturdy and solid centre-halves, where Rangers’ Gough, incidentally born in Stockholm, Sweden, was operating as the right-sided alibi among them. He’d done well at right-back against the Balkanese, though he was probably even more at home as a centre-back after all. To his immediate left, Gough had big Dundee United veteran David Narey, who had not had any game time in the qualification hitherto, but who was nevertheless at ease with playing international football. Whilst Gough was often coming into contact with Italy striker Aldo Serena, Narey could more often than not be seen as something akin to a spare man, although not operating in a deeper role behind the two other central defenders. He should as such not be seen as a libero or ‘sweeper’ (as the prefered British Isles term often is); Scotland were deploying the three big men square in line. Narey would also be the one accepting the greater responsibility in building from the back, either through feeding one of the midfielders or knocking the ball long in the forward direction. The flame-haired Alex McLeish was to Narey’s left, and having formed a central-defensive pairing with his Aberdeen chum Willie Miller in the qualification, he would have to rely on other defensive folk this time around.
Scotland’s two full-backs were Maurice Malpas to the right and Murdo MacLeod along the left. Malpas had played the full 90 in both qualification matches, though the Dundee United man had played to the left in defence. On this occasion, the 26 year old had been switched across to the right. This did not seem to be a problem to him, as he appeared to be equally comfortable using either foot. Clearly, Malpas, much due to this, was a fine asset to his manager. With Malpas working in the right-sided position, it was Borussia Dortmund based MacLeod who was in charge of their left hand side. The former Celtic mainstay was a regular in the West Germany Bundesliga side, and he was familiar with an identical role there: Wide left in a 3-5-2. The Dortmund side were twelvth in the table, and the Bundesliga had early in December gone on their winter break, not resuming again until the latter part of February.
Whereas it might have been Scotland’s idea to have the two widemen supporting their midfield and attack, they would often appear more as regular full-backs due to the way Italy would at times pin the visitors back inside their own half. This often meant that the three men which were in the Scottish midfield would have to rely on themselves. MacLeod was possibly somewhat more attack-minded than Malpas, and he could on a few occasions be seen assisting forward down the left.
In the central of the three midfield positions was 30 year old Roy Aitken, the Scotland captain. He had worked in a midfield tandem with his Celtic team mate Paul McStay in the two qualification matches, though in this 5-3-2, he was sitting at the heart of the engine room. To his right was said McStay, who perhaps started brightly, but who would soon enough fade. And in Roxburgh’s post-match press conference, the manager would state that the 24 year old ace midfielder had been playing with a stomach problem. He had clearly not reached the same high level as he’d displayed against both Norway and Yugoslavia. As the inside left alternative in this Scottish eleven was their sole starting debutant: Rangers’ 21 year old Ian Ferguson. Perhaps a little oddly, Roxburgh could be heard saying after the game that “Ferguson was not quite ready for this level yet, even if he gave a fine account of himself today”. He was a keen runner, he was not foreign to treating the ball well, and Ferguson would probably emerge as the better Scotland midfielder during the opening 45 minutes.
Up front, Scotland had the same pairing as had been picked for the Norway game: Mo Johnston and Kevin Gallacher. The blisteringly quick 22 year old Gallacher was typically working towards the right hand channel, where he would often be up against the mal-reputed Riccardo Ferri. This did not seem to faze him, and he would continue to lend a fine impression, rarely considering any ball a lost cause. France based Johnston, more a left-sided kind of striker on this occasion, was often engaging in combat with Giuseppe Bergomi, and Johnston would remain a lesser threat to the hosts than his young team mate.
Hosts up the ante
If the visitors had been able to fend the home side off without too much difficulty until around the halfway point in the first half, the hosts were about to tighten the screw. They were seizing a stronger grip of the midfield, where Giuseppe Giannini was beginning to put on something of a display. The Scottish team would inevitably drop deeper, and this opened up for the Italian midfield to run over them, and finally the opportunities were beginning to appear. By now, McStay had more or less dropped out, and Aitken sat pretty deep, hardly able to influence much on proceedings. It was Ferguson who appeared to be the more clever among their midfield three, though he was always facing a losing battle against some very energetic competitors in the home midfield; it was not just Giannini excelling. Massimo Crippa contributed very well to the collective along the right hand side, and inside him there was the relentless running from Nicola Berti. Across midfield, another debutant was showing his class: Giancarlo Marocchi was often the deeper one among their midfield five, and using his precise left foot, he would at times direct play as much as Giannini did. Outside of him, Paolo Maldini seemed keen to make an attacking impression. Scotland were being stretched, and it almost seemed a question of time until they were breached.
Marocchi was the next to have a go, when he was able to take aim from a half volley less than 25 yards out, slightly to the left of centre. However, his effort proved to be a disappointing one, even if it fell to his clearly stronger left boot, and the shot went a good few yards to the right of Goram’s goal. Then there’s two efforts from the strong Aldo Serena, who makes a big nuisance of himself, as he first arrives ahead of his marker Gough to Maldini’s left wing cross, albeit his header is well off target, and then Vialli headed the ball into his path inside the penalty area. The big number 11 came too wide, though, and even if he managed to get his left foot shot on target, it was a routine save for Goram to make as he held the ball comfortably high on his near post.
Giannini is next in line, and after Italy have conjured up a few right wing corners in relatively quick succession, it is Marocchi and then Baresi with a delicious touch from the outside of his right foot who set Giannini up against MacLeod just inside the right hand corner of the Scottish penalty area. The Scot does not dare to attack Giannini, so he keeps check on him from a couple of yards’ distance. Giannini has already spotted Goram off his line, and as he cuts back, he proceeds to use his left foot to direct a lobbed effort towards the far post. The ball smacks against the aluminium almost by the angle where the post meets the crossbar, and the visitors are fortunate to escape a goal against. It was intricate stuff from the hungry looking midfielder.
For a third successive late 1988 friendly, Italy were set up in a 3-5-2 formation. There were few surprises, even if Vicini on this occasion had included no less than two debutants from the off.
Between the posts was, as had been expected, even if Stefano Tacconi had excelled against the Netherlands, Walter Zenga. The Internazionale man, 28, was making his 23rd appearance for his country since his debut just over two years earlier. Vicini had made no secret about him being his first choice, even if Tacconi did his very best to prove an excellent challenger.
The three at the back were once again the all Milan based trio with AC’s Franco Baresi as libero behind man-markers Giuseppe Bergomi, on his 25th anniversary and the Italy captain, and Riccardo Ferri, both of Internazionale. Bergomi was featuring in his 53rd international, and he was easily the team’s leading cap (Vialli was second with 32). Those three were as solid as it got, even if they had not always had it their own way against the Dutch in their previous outing. Both Baresi and Bergomi would willingly contribute even inside the opposition’s half, whilst Ferri would not assert himself across the halfway line, but rather keep tabs on Scotland striker Gallacher.
With no Fernando De Napoli available, the wide right berth had on this occasion gone to his Napoli team mate Massimo Crippa, and after 30 minutes, the debutant for sure was giving a very fine account of himself. He would remain an option for Vicini if he continued to prove such a capable alternative, and although he was better going forward than inside his own half, he also did not shirk away from defensive duties. He would help Bergomi out along the Italian right hand side defensively. Inside him was Internazionale’s hugely talented Nicola Berti, who had come to the fore only recently for gli Azzurri, but who was looking to establish himself in Vicini’s starting eleven. Berti was well-built; he was strong in the air, and he battled very well with the physically strong Scotsmen. He was also full of running, and his ability to make advance off the ball deep inside enemy territory was invaluable to a midfield which perhaps otherwise could’ve been deemed a little static.
He’s obviously been mentioned, and it was difficult not to spot Giuseppe Giannini, the player at the heart of the central Italian midfield. Adored by many a female calcio fan, the long-haired Roma man would quite often work at the helm of the Italian midfield, this time around in a slightly more advanced position. This clearly suited him well, as he would see a lot of the ball, and be able to use his distribution and vision to good effect. He must have enjoyed having Juventus’ 23 year old Giancarlo Marocchi inside him, as the latter could do some of the work previously associated with Giannini for the national team: Pick the ball up from the defenders and instigate the next attack from inside their own half. Perhaps was Marocchi not always the most visible player, but he was truly gifted in possession, rarely threading wrong, and someone unlikely to concede the ball to an opponent. To his left, to complete the Italian midfield quintet, was the team’s youngest player in 20 year old AC Milan starlet Paolo Maldini, who was also ready to give Giannini a run for his money regarding the ‘most coveted’ among the female fans. On this occasion, Maldini was working well in tandem with Ferri inside him defensively, as well as with Marocchi whenever Italy were building through midfield. Maldini had provided a fine cross for Serena’s earlier header, although he’d been a little wasteful on a couple of other occasions.
Up front, the hosts had a typical Vicini tandem, where one player would operate through the middle and the other run himself into the ground out wide. The latter was obviously Sampdoria ace Gianluca Vialli, who once again sought the right hand side of the pitch. From there, he would prove a nuisance to both McLeish and MacLeod, and he would look to combine with Bergomi, Crippa and Berti behind him. He was also able to set his strike partner Serena up for that left footed shot on target earlier. On that occasion, Serena, with 28 years one of three senior players in the side (Zenga and Baresi were the two other), had been able to shake off his marker Gough, with whom he would enjoy some fine tussles this afternoon. Serena was a big, bustling striker, almost resembling an old-school British centre-forward: Strong in the air, he was the man they’d be looking for with aerial balls.
Through to half time
In their best spells, Italy were pressing the visitors high up in the pitch, leaving Scotland with little space in which to manoeuvre. This forced them to hit long towards their relatively isolated strikers, and winning the ball back would be a comfortable task for the Italians. However, after that earlier succession of attempts, the latter stages of the first half was quite a mundane affair. There were a couple of attempts from the home side, most notably when Giannini seizes on a loose ball 22 yards away from goal to the right of centre. He strikes it well with his right foot, but Goram makes a fine save low down to his left, not even close to offering the hosts a rebound. In fact, it had been a very competent first half display by the Scottish goalkeeper.
Scotland defender Gough is considered a strong player in the air, but he would lose out to both Italian strikers inside his own area during the course of the opening 45 minutes. However, neither Serena earlier nor Vialli less than four minutes from the half time whistle managed to direct their efforts on target. Vialli had a cameo towards the centre at the end of the first half, as the home side tried to find their sting back. As it were, though, they could muster no further goal attempts, and with the Scottish rarely in possession inside the Italian half so far this afternoon, the teams came in at the break without a goal between them.
After a first half which had been largely dominated by the hosts, Scotland would need to show something else in the second half were they to avoid defeat. Surely, another half along similar lines would make sure that the hosts would leave with a win. Still, it was goalless, and with that, of course, came hope for the Scottish. Neither side had made any half-time changes, and so it was the visitors to kick the game back into motion through forward Gallacher and midfielder McStay.
The quite vociferous crowd had kept supporting their team throughout the opening period, and they seemed to enjoy life in the almost spring-like early afternoon sunshine.
The first 45 had held no less than nine corner kicks: Six to the hosts and three for the visitors, and it only takes Scotland’s left-sided player Murdo MacLeod 20 seconds to win another one off Riccardo Ferri. Was MacLeod’s participation this high in the field an indication of a more attacking Scotland in the second half, or was it just an early coincidence? Set-pieces had yielded nothing in terms of goal threat from the Scottish, and it was not as if this attempt by Kevin Gallacher was any different, as it sailed straight into the unopposed arms of Walter Zenga. They had brought both Gough and McLeish forward, but neither were close to the ball in from the left.
It was in fact a very lively start to the second period, with Italy mounting an attack straight after the Scottish set-piece. They’d work it down along the left for Vialli, who would proceed to find Giannini in a central position outside the area. He’d have his attempt blocked by McLeish, but the ball would be recouped by the hosts through Crippa out on the right hand side, and he’d spotted Serena in the centre. Crippa hit his cross very well, though it looked as if the opportunity had gone once Serena had connected and headed well over under pressure from Gough. However, the referee saw it differently: He felt that Gough had impeded the Internazionale striker to the extent that it had warranted a penalty! Cue some Scottish disbelief, and even the crowd appears to not quite comprehend why their team all of a sudden were dealt a penalty.
It was even difficult to spot any infringement from the replay, and it would take more than a minute before Giannini, who had struck home a penalty in the 2-1 win against Norway, could take aim. He struck his spot kick well into the bottom left corner, though the referee deemed that Berti had started his run into the area too early, and so Giannini would have to do it all over again. On his second attempt, the midfield maestro picked the opposite corner, and though Goram was after the ball this time, he could not prevent it from going in near the post. 1-0 Italy.
If the noise levels had been on an afternoon high when Giannini hit home the penalty for the opening goal, the stadium made sure to even take it up another notch when it was announced that Italy were about to bring Stefano Tacconi on for goalkeeper Zenga. Tacconi, plying his trade with Juventus for a number of seasons already, was born in Perugia, and so he was greeted with a massive chorus of jeers as he was about to enter the pitch. In fact, Vicini made an early second half double substitution, taking off his captain Bergomi in the process, bringing on as a second half sub for the third successive friendly Napoli’s young defender Ciro Ferrara.
The 21 year old came on for his seventh appearance in the national team jersey, and it was clear that the manager had a great wish to make Ferrara feel as a major part of the squad. As for Tacconi, this was his only third full international, although he’d represented his country during the Olympic games in Seoul earlier in the year, when Italy had reached the semi-final stage. He’d also been back-up to Zenga during the European Championships, so around this time Tacconi must have felt he was not too far away from fighting it out with Zenga on even terms.
Vialli took over the captain’s armband from the departuring Bergomi.
Any response from the away team?
There were times early in the second half when the Scottish seemed like they wanted to put pressure on the hosts high up in the pitch, but the labour appeared too individual rather than a strong collective effort, and so it backfired. After the goal, the hosts would maintain possession with some ease, again not allowing the visitors anywhere near their goal. Instead, they themselves came close to adding another when they break quickly through Vialli, who feeds Crippa on a good run down the right. Berti had made a fine run into the centre, and he connects with the inside of his right foot from Crippa’s precise pass, but his finish goes just wide to the right of the post. It was agonisingly close to Berti’s first international goal on 55 minutes.
Substitute Ferrara, incidentally, had taken over the departed Bergomi’s role as the right-sided of the three centre-halves.
On the topic of substitutions: Scotland would make their first change when they took midfield man Paul McStay off eleven minutes into the second half. He’d been a mere shadow of himself, totally unable to stamp any kind of authority on proceedings from his inside right role. Bearing in mind how well he had played in Scotland’s two autumn qualifiers, it made sense when Roxburgh said after the game how the Celtic man had struggled with stomach cramps. On for the 24 year old came Manchester United’s Brian McClair, himself obviously a former team mate of McStay’s at Celtic. McClair was perhaps a striker by nature, becoming the first Old Trafford based player to register 20 league goals or more in a season for what felt like centuries to the Manchester United faithful. However, he would be offered a midfield position on this occasion, something which McClair had shown that he’d coped well with already in the ongoing qualification. He was someone well capable of picking the ball up in the centre of the park and advance beyond an opponent or two, despite the fact that he was not a typically speedy player. His introduction meant a reshuffle, with Ferguson moving from inside left to inside right, in order to accommodate McClair in the inside left midfield position. Aitken remained inbetween.
Better spell for the visitors
Italy hardly fired on all cylinders so far in the second half, though having moved in front, they’d have been somewhat pleased with how things were going nevertheless. They had seemed to relax a bit in the midfield department, and after the introduction of McClair, the Scottish were able to raise their game, spending spells inside the Italians’ half of the pitch. Not that they were producing anything in terms of threats towards Tacconi’s goal, but at least it must have given their players a greater sense of belief once they realised that it was quite possible to maintain possession even inside the opposition’s half. The Scotland substitute had a fine 25 yard surge in which he rode a Baresi challenge and played the ball out wide to Gallacher, and it was more than his predecessor McStay had brought to the team this afternoon.
In fact, not long after the introduction of McClair, they’d change around the roles for Ferguson and Aitken, with the latter, quite surprisingly, moving to inside right for a period of time, and with Ferguson dropping back slightly to take on the central position. Despite the reputation of the opposition, the young Glaswegian did very well, as he was never at any time overawed by the hosts. He would give chase, he would distribute and he would even bark out orders to Aitken! This latter was when Scotland had been given a free-kick halfway inside the Italy half after Malpas had been felled, and in trying to resume play quickly, Ferguson could be seen reprimanding his captain for not retrieving the ball faster. Malpas would eventually hit the set-piece into the box, where Gough never got over the ball as his header sailed well over.
Visitors want penalty
20 minutes into the second half, some of the Scottish players are adament they had won a penalty, as Baresi raised his foot to the level of Gallacher’s head inside the Italian area. This was in an attacking right-sided position for the visitors, who’d just capitalised on a quick throw from Aitken in the direction of the clearly more agile of their two strikers. However, the referee deemed it an indirect free-kick (for dangerous play), so even if the incident occured inside the box, the outcome was just a free-kick. Malpas, who had taken over set-piece responsibility from the departed McStay, did manage to find Gough on the far post, though the big defender was heavily marked by Serena, who had come back into his own area to do a terrific defensive job, and the effort went some way wide of target. Johnston wanted penalty (again!) for the way he felt Ferrara had handled him off the ball, though the referee had none of it.
gli Azzurri increase their advantage
Italy increase their lead on 71 minutes, after they had been showing signs of gradually waking up from their slumber. Both Marocchi and, even more importantly, Giannini had been seeing more of the ball in midfield recently, and they’d engaged Baresi in a couple of attacking forays, not least the one which would yield their second goal of the afternoon. The libero, so often prolific when coming forward, was played the ball halfway inside the Scottish half, and he took on MacLeod, who looked like he had not expected such a burst in pace from the experienced defender. Baresi got all the way to the byline before he hooked a cross into the centre, where Crippa had made sure to position himself well for a header. The Napoli man connected well from ten yards, heading into the ground and making Goram work, as the ‘keeper could only beat the ball away, conceding a rebound into dangerous territory. Berti, who had earlier been on the ball when he fed Giannini, had plenty of momentum coming into the area, getting to Goram’s rebound ahead of Gough, and his header was an unstoppable one into the roof of the net for his first ever national team goal. Italy had shown their class, and although they had been lackadaisical in spells, they were more than deservedly in front.
Both sides could opt long
Scotland attempted to go very direct, even if not too often, but when they did, it would be Narey knocking the ball forward from a central defensive position, trying to get Johnston to flick the ball on for either an inside midfielder or Gallacher to run on to. This happened with some 15 minutes left for play, and with Aitken having featured in the inside right midfield position for large spells in the second half, it was the Celtic man who took on the headed flick from Nantes striker Johnston, arriving at the byline before trying to angle his ball back into the area. However, he could only succeed to direct it low and straight into Tacconi’s arms.
Whenever a ball was hit long by the hosts, it was Baresi who was behind it. In fact, this was something of a Baresi trademark in the national team: He would obviously be looking for the aerially stronger among their two strikers, so Gough needed to be alert in order to try and prevent Serena from nodding the ball on to a team mate. Italy did have the ballers to go through midfield, obviously, but they were certainly not foreign to aiming direct balls up from the back. This ability to mix it up made them somewhat less predictable.
Another substitute on
Scotland were certainly taking the opportunity to test players out in various roles, and though you might have expected some of the less experienced internationals being shifted around, this would apply more to captain Aitken than anyone else. Having featured in the inside right role for a longer spell, he was back in the deeper midfield role again once the visitors had made their next substitution: They withdrew impressive debutant Ferguson for striker Gordon Durie. The 23 year old Chelsea striker came on for his second appearance in his country’s jersey, and he would move straight up top to partner Johnston, making Gallacher drop back into the now vacant inside right midfield position.
Italy are in control towards the latter stages of the game, although they are not exhausting themselves; the pace of the game is not excessive. With two players who at club level are recognized strikers used in both inside midfield roles, the Scottish appear to be thin in defensive fibres in this department, though out wide both MacLeod and Malpas do well, spending plenty of time inside their own half of the pitch, also covering inside when need be. Italy are assuredly playing out time, and they have a decent opportunity from a diagonal Crippa effort six minutes from time. The Napoli player had played a big part in the second goal, and he had certainly put a fine shift in, covering plenty of grass. His shot had come from 15 yards out, but Goram had it well covered on his near post as he got down low to claim it.
Referee Delmer allowed one minute of additional time, and honestly, there was no need to dally about any further, as little happened in the latter stages anyway, and both teams appeared just to be playing out time. There had been a late substitution for the visitors, their third of the afternoon, when David Speedie, the 28 year old Coventry forward, came on for centre-back Gough. Speedie won his seventh cap in the process, and it led to further reshuffling in the Scottish pack, with Aitken dropping back into a central defensive position, whilst Speedie took to Aitken’s central midfield role. This meant that the Brits saw out the remaining game time with a midfield consisting of, from right to left: Gallacher, Speedie and McClair. Their only opportunity to make any kind of inroads late on was when they were awarded another free-kick halfway inside the Italian half, though MacLeod’s lift into the area eluded everyone. The Italian defenders did a splendid job on the Scottish forward all match long, and so Tacconi only had a simple save from a looping McLeish header to make after he came on.
Italy were much the better side before the half-time break, when they put pressure on the visitors and pinned them back inside their own half for longer spells. However, efficiency was hardly prolific, and even if there had been some opportunities in front of Goram, most notably when Giannini smacked one off the upright, it had been Zenga who’d made the greater stretch among the two custodians when he saved Aitken’s early effort from long range.
After the break, Italy were awarded a somewhat dubious penalty when the referee felt that Serena had been challenged unfairly by Gough, and though Giannini had needed two efforts, he tucked away the penalty for the opening goal. The visitors would struggle to make any kind of impact on the Italian goal, where Tacconi had taken over for Zenga right after the goal, and they’d add a second when Berti powerfully rose to head home after Goram had parried Crippa’s close range header. It was a deserved triumph for the hosts even if they rarely moved out of second gear. A slightly makeshift Scottish select were, in truth, not a match.
1 Zenga 6.9
does not have much to do, but shows he’s alert when he’s equal to Aitken’s effort from distance
(12 Tacconi 6.8
remains almost unemployed, a looping McLeish header apart)
2 Bergomi 7.0
often in combat with Johnston, and generally does well. Stays behind most of the time, though gets into a couple of crossing positions
(13 Ferrara 7.2
a bright appearance in which he would typically keep Johnston in check. Also had an excellent intervention from an attempted Gallacher through-ball)
3 Maldini 7.1
did ok both ways, and also reached targets in the area with some of his crosses. Assisted Ferri in looking out for Gallacher along his side defensively
4 Baresi 7.4
such a class act, and demonstrates it so well when coming forward. Terrific in the build-up to the second goal with his run outside MacLeod, and also sweeps impeccably behind the two man-markers inside his own half
5 Ferri 6.9
had his moments of worry against the pacy Gallacher. Used his experience to win free-kicks on a couple of occasions
6 Marocchi 7.2
an assured display in a somewhat retracted inside left midfield role. Very sound in possession, though wasteful with two shooting opportunities in the first half
7 Crippa 7.3
highly energetic display down the right hand side, in which he was covering plenty of ground. Produced some telling right wing crosses, one which would bring the penalty for the opening goal
8 Berti 7.3
an all-action performance in the advanced inside right position, and he kept combining well with the other players down the right to give MacLeod and McLeish something of a difficult afternoon
9 Vialli 7.0
effort was there, but did not always enjoy so much luck. Still, he would be part of quite a powerful right hand side, from where the hosts created plenty
10 Giannini 7.5
certainly a good fit for an attacking midfield role, and some of his distribution was a joy to behold. Hit the woodwork with a deft left footed effort before the break, and also tested Goram from distance with his right
11 Serena 7.2
a big handful, particularly in the air, where he made sure to be a nuisance to Gough. The defender brought him down for the penalty
1 Goram 7.1
competent display in which he remained focused throughout. Alert, claimed well, though perhaps his positioning could be questioned for when Giannini struck the post in the first half
2 Gough 6.8
often found Serena a match in the air, though committed as always, and not out of sorts on the ground
(14 Speedie –
on as a central midfielder late on)
3 Malpas 6.7
not much contributive as an attacking force, and would occasionally struggle to close Maldini down quickly enough
4 Narey 6.8
would often hit it long from the back. He was not challenged as much as the two other centre-backs, though had an important tackle to concede a throw in the second half
5 McLeish 6.7
was at times pulled out somewhat wide by Vialli, though remained composed most of the time. Won a few aerial balls
6 MacLeod 6.5
no big threat attack wise, and he also found it difficult when Italy opted to attack down his left hand side; did not close down particularly well against crosses
7 Ferguson 6.8
certainly did not shame himself on his debut in difficult surroundings. Probably had his best spell as the central of three midfielders in the second half, when he showed some ability in distribution
(17 Durie –
looked hungry and challenged for aerial balls after coming on)
8 McStay 6.5
not his game as he was alledgedly struggling with stomach problems. Did not get to grips with the Italian midfield, and had little influence on proceedings
(15 McClair 6.6
gave a good early impression, but would gradually fade. Not much of an upgrade after all)
9 Gallacher 7.1
never stopped running, full of effort, though perhaps not always tactically astute. Never fazed by Ferri, and did cause the man-marker some worry with his pace
10 Aitken 6.7
battled alright from his central role, though was switched around a good few times during the second half. Appeared in an unusual inside right role, and finished as a centre-back
11 Johnston 6.4
not much luck against some tough opponents, and did not always look too interested