Italy 1 - 2 Argentina

Argentina have beaten Italy, taking a 2-1 win in Rome. Goals from Gonzalo Higuaín and Éver Banega were enough for the Albiceleste to take victory, despite a late Lorenzo Insigne effort allowing Italy back into the match.

 

Argentina started the game brighter than their Italian hosts, with Higuaín looking immediately dangerous.

Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was called into action to keep out one of his low shots inside the opening five minutes. There is something about Napoli's new signing in this game....a great sense of goal scoring instinct...probably that's why Benitez bought him over in a bid to rival Juventus this season.

After a shaky start, the Azzurri gradually settled on the ball rather than repeatedly playing hopeful long passes up to lone striker Pablo Osvaldo. It was a wise move and it helps the team to control the movement and dictacte the tempo of the game. However, after 20 minutes, stand-in centre-back Daniele De Rossi gifted the ball to his Erik Lamela in a mistake that could be extremely costly should it happen in the World Cup. The winger squared the ball for Higuaín, who stepped infield before lashing the ball inside the far post for 1-0.

Italy's response was positive, but there is a lack of goal on target effort to test goalkeeper Mariano Andújar. Osvaldo was working hard in attack, though the Azzurri's best chances came from hopeful efforts from outside the box.

That was until Claudio Marchisio popped up in the area to meet a low Antonio Candreva cross five minutes before half time, though the Juventus midfielder failed to make a clean contact with the ball, and the shot went off the target.

Cesare Prandelli made three half-time substitutions, but any hopes of getting a quick level goal collapsed when Argentina substitute Éver Banega was gifted space on the edge of the box four minutes after the restart. The Valencia midfielder dashed from deep to receive the ball, before drilling it across Buffon and into the bottom corner. There seem to be a rather weak defending from the Italian side especially in dealing with the counter attack from the Argentines.

A few minutes later, and in a game arranged in dedication to Pope Francis, Prandelli committed a nigh-on sacrilegious act, by substituting Buffon. His replacement, Lazio's Federico Marchetti, was called into action almost immediately, palming away Palacio's cross from the right before acrobatically denying Higuaín on the rebound.

Alessandro Diamanti almost responded with a brilliant free-kick, though the Bologna midfielder's effort cracked off the crossbar with just over 20 minutes remaining. Alberto Aquilani scrambled the ball into the net in the aftermath, though the goal was rightly chalked off for offside.

With 15 minutes remaining, Italy finally did have their breakthrough. Napoli winger Lorenzo Insigne opened his account for the Azzurri with an excellent curling shot from the edge of the box, before the game completely opened out. Di María and Insigne squandered excellent chances within seconds of each other, as Argentina clung to their slender lead.

Italy have a better possession at 56%, something that coach Prandelli is working towards, but probably there is a need for a sharper goal scorer. I guess that's why Balotelli plays an important role for the national team.

 

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