Italy Cruise Past Northern Ireland in World Cup Qualifiers Opener

So, where did we leave off?

Oh yes, Italy failing to qualify to World Cup 2018 after a dreadful display in a Play Off against Sweden. More than three years have passed and the Azzurri are arguably a brand-new team, but winning their debut match in the Qualifiers for the next world competition was necessary to chase away the ghosts of their failure.

Roberto Mancini’s Italy promptly obliged in Parma on Thursday night as they disposed of a modest Northern Ireland side with goals from Domenico Berardi and Ciro Immobile. Based on what seen tonight, the battle for supremacy in the Group C of the Qualifiers should be a matter between the Azzurri and Switzerland, who comfortably cruised past Bulgaria 3-1.

In the day of Leonardo Bonucci’s 100th cap with the Azzurri jersey, Italy took less than 45 minutes to get the job done and get off to a good start on the road to Qatar. But they suffered a bit more than necessary during a sloppy second half in which Northern Ireland came close to reduce the deficit.

For his qualifiers debut, Mancini paired Bonucci with Giorgio Chiellini at the back, reconstructing part of the once famous BBC. Alessandro Florenzi and Emerson Palmieri acter as full backs, while Lorenzo Pellegrini was preferred to Niccolò Barella in midfield, together with Sassuolo’s Manuel Locatelli and PSG genius Marco Verratti.

On the front line, Macini opted for Ciro Immobile as central striker, flanked by Domenico Berardi and Lorenzo Insigne.

Sassuolo’s Berardi opened the scoring for Italy on 14 minutes, beating the Irish goalkeeper with a left-foot snapshot to the near post from an Alessandro Florenzi cross. The second goal came at the end of a fast break ignited by Lorenzo Insigne, with Immobile firing a shot on which the opponent goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell should have done better.

Italy hit the brakes after the restart and renounced to round up the scoring. Considering the Azzurri have two more games to face in less than one week, it might look like a wise choice. However, there was a bit more trouble than expected in the second period as coach Ian Baraclough’s squad came close to pull one back when a Manuel Locatelli blunder offered the Irish a favorable chance to shot. Gianluigi Donnarumma, however, pulled off a double save to deny Gavin Whyte and Michael Smith in succession.

Roberto Mancini will not be happy about his boys’ performance in the second half as Italy committed many careless mistakes and risked again in the latest stages of the game as a Verratti mistake gift-wrapped another golden chance for the visitors. Paddy McNair didn’t take advantage of it, however, as he sent his shot crashing above the crossbar.

The Azzurri‘s next test will be on Sunday in Bulgaria. Their World Cup redeem got off on the right foot, but they will need more than what seen tonight in the coming months.



March 25, 2021 – World Cup 2022 Qualifiers Group C

SCORERS: 14′ Berardi, 38′ Immobile

ITALY (4-3-3): Donnarumma; Florenzi, Bonucci, Chiellini, Emerson (74′ Spinazzola); Pellegrini (62′ Barella), Locatelli (83′ Pessina), Verratti; Berardi (74′ Chiesa), Immobile, Insigne (83′ Grifo) (Cragno, Sirigu, Acerbi, Belotti, Bernardeschi, Di Lorenzo, G. Mancini) Coach: R. Mancini
NORTHERN IRELAND (3-5-2): Peacock-Farrel; Smith, J. Evans, Cathcart; Dallas, McNair, McCan (77′ Thompson), Davis, C. Evans (45′ Saville); Whyte (64′ Lavery), Magennis (77′ Lafferty) (Hazard, Hughes, Ballard, Brown, Ferguson, Kennedy, McGinn, McLaughlin) Coach: Baraclough

REFEREE: Palabiyik (Turkey)
NOTES: Yellow Card: Thompson, Saville (N)