Thursday, 29 March 2007

More From The Group Of Death

Italy striker Luca Toni scored with two headers to sink Scotland in the Euro 2008 qualifying match in Bari. The towering Toni was left unmarked to power in an early goal from a Massimo Oddo free-kick.
Scotland rallied briefly in the closing stages of the first half but Italy controlled the game for long spells. After an intensive period of pressure from the World Cup winners, Toni again found the net with ease after slack Scottish play on 70 minutes.”

The thing about football is that you can watch the same game, and yet come away with different conclusions. Saturday’s game is a rubbish example because by common consent, Scotland were rubbish, and were lucky to get the 2-1 win over Georgia (too many players just didn’t perform). Last night on the other hand, I thought Scotland played well, certainly better than the quote from the BBC Website would have you believe. However the difference was that Italy are an experienced collection of players who are exposed to football at the highest level, and they are the world champions (despite being 2nd seeds in this group when the draw was made 14 months ago).
Granted, the first goal was a defensive mistake. Free kick from the right finds Toni in some space, and he headers past Gordon. At that point it looked like Italy were in the mood to sweep Scotland aside. Scotland however dug in and got themselves into the game, creating a couple of chances before the break. Italy controlled the second half, and could have been home and hosed when di Natale was sent through not just once but twice, only to be denied by Gordon both times. The second goal once again came from the right as Camoranesi crossed for Toni to head home again.
The big plus out of these two games has been the emergence of the Hibernian midfielder Scott Brown, who gave urgency to the Scotland midfield on Saturday (when he came on), and was excellent getting forward to support Kenny Miller up front last night. Barry Ferguson, it has to be said, was better than average last night (why do Scottish Footballing pundits rate him so highly?). On the downside, Alexander continued to be as poor as he was on Saturday. Teale was OK, but Hartley was completely anonymous.The plus side from having a group like this is that you can create a side, hot house a couple of players, and find out exactly how good your players are without the stress and expectancy of qualification. For McLeish, like it was for Smith, we may lose like we did last night, we are still in a win-win situation.

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