Italy back-ups fail to impress vs Ireland

Italy’s winless streak is continuing at the worst possible time.

On Saturday evening at Craven Cottage, two weeks on the dot from their World Cup opener versus England, Italy made it six games without a win as they settled for a 0-0 draw against Ireland. Italy head coach Cesare Prandelli opted to rest his starters in favor of young, up-and-coming talent and fringe players just one day before the deadline to name his 23-man roster for Brazil.

The Italians lined up in an offensive 4-4-2 formation with Salvatore Sirigu starting in place of Gianluigi Buffon in goal. Of the usual bench players, Sirigu looked the most prepared for the World Cup. He notched the shutout for the Italians despite their giveaway-prone back line, making seven saves.

The majority of Italy’s other players failed to make much of an impact. The offense stuttered and the defense over-relied on Sirigu. Claudio Marchisio fired a bullet from outside the penalty area in the sixth minute that Ireland goalkeeper David Forde pushed away for a corner kick. But after that sequence, the Irish took over.

Sirigu saved a freekick from just outside the penalty area by Anthony Pilkington (27th) and palmed a free header by Shane Long over the crossbar (33rd).

Ireland nearly capitalized in the 79th minute when Stephen Quinn fired a loose ball in the penalty area off the underside of the crossbar. Quinn collected the rebound and played the ball wide to Long on the right of the box. Long hit a side volley that Sirigu dropped low to block.

Ciro Immobile, who led Serie A in scoring last season and just completed a blockbuster move to Borussia Dortmund, failed to have an offensive impact on the game. He poked a through pass from Giuseppe Rossi into the back of an open net in the 55th minute, but was called offside.

Italy will play another friendly, against Luxembourg in Perugia, on June 4 after Prandelli finalizes his roster.

Riccardo Montolivo left the game in the 10th minute after seemingly breaking his foot following a tackle by Alex Pearce. He was replaced by Alberto Aquilani, who also left the game, with concussion-like symptoms after colliding heads on two separate occasions.

Montolivo was taken to a London hospital and has a slim chance of making the final roster. Aquilani’s chances are in less peril, though he likely didn’t do enough during the 30 minutes he was on the field to make a lasting impression on Prandelli.

ITALY PLAYER RATINGS

GK- S. Sirigu- Was ready for every shot that came his way. Made some huge saves and commanded his box beautifully. (9)

D- M. De Sciglio- Passing out of the back was poor and was burned too often by Ireland’s wingers. (4)

D- L. Bonucci- Passing was suspect but his positioning was generally good. (6)

D- T. Motta- The inverse of Bonucci. Passing was generally good but struggled in the transition plays. (5)

D- G. Paletta- Looked very outclassed in that level of play. Gave the ball away often and seemed to lack the pace to keep up. (4)

M- M. Darmian- Phenomenal performance on the flank. Good crossing and great job tracking back to defend. (6)

M- M. Verratti- Excellent job in transitions, but needs to learn how to compensate for his lack of physicality. (6)

M- C. Marchisio- Took his first chance well, but shot high and wide every other team. Really seemed to fade from the match. (5)

M- R. Montolivo- Not enough to give a constructive criticism, though the hope is he’s okay and won’t be injured too long. (NA)

F- C. Immobile- After tearing the cover off the ball in Serie A, he didn’t look like he belonged with the national team. Needed to be way more clinical. (3)

F- G. Rossi- Didn’t add much to the situation. Never really got into scoring position and shot too often from speculative distances. (4)

Substitutes:

A. Aquilani- Unlucky to have to come off for concussion but didn’t do much for the midfield in the little time he was on the field. (4)

M. Parolo- Maybe tried to do too much, but at least he kept the ball moving and tried to jump-start the Italian attack. (5)

D. De Rossi- Calmed down the midfield and his passing was spot on almost every time. (7)

A. Cassano- Really added nothing new. Passing was suspect. (3)

I. Abate- Not enough time on the field to give a constructive criticism. (NA)

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About Julian Cardillo

Julian Cardillo is an American sports journalist who has contributed to New England Soccer Today since its inception. He has also written for The Boston Globe, Boston.com, The Advocate, Soccerly, and a number of other outlets. He was a foreign correspondent for Boston.com in 2012, covering AS Roma from Italy. He has contributed to Roma Radio and Yahoo Sports Radio. Julian speaks English, Italian, and French. He has a Politics degree from Brandeis University, where he is currently taking graduate classes. Follow him on twitter @juliancardillo