Confederations Cup – Brazil win as Italy crash out
Brazil thumped World Cup holders Italy 3-0 in their final Confederations Cup group game in Pretoria as the Azzurri’s interest in the tournament was dramatically brought to an end.
Luis Fabiano struck a brace for Brazil while Andrea Dossena added a third with an own-goal as the Selecao sealed their place in the semi-finals, where they will play hosts South Africa on Thursday.
But it was Italy’s failure to reach the last four that will make the morning headlines.
Marcelo Lippi’s side finished third in Group B, level on points with the US – and Egypt – but with an inferior number of goals scored, meaning they return home while Bob Bradley’s side continue their pursuit of glory against Spain.
It was far from a classic performance by the Juventus stopper – or any of his team-mates at the back for that matter.
The once-revered Italian defence looked shaky from the outset and a far cry from unflappable, assured version the footballing world got used to in Maldini’s heyday.
Alarms bells were set ringing as early as the seventh minute when Ramires fired against the woodwork following good work by Fabiano, who went close himself with a glancing header just after the half-hour mark.
Lucio then saw a cross deflected onto the woodwork and was only denied a goal moments later by a sharp stop by Gigi Buffon – the only member of Italy’s back five who emerged from the first half with any kind of credit.
But the feeling was that it was only a matter of time before Brazil took the lead. And so it proved, as three goals in eight minutes broke Italian spirits and effectively put the match beyond their reach.
Fabiano kicked off the goal glut, the Sevilla striker controlling Maicon‘s mis-hit shot on the edge of the penalty area before turning and finding the far corner in one swift movement.
His second came six minutes later when Kaka played a one-two with Robinho, the Manchester City man stepping over the return ball and allowing it to roll through to Fabiano, who competently slotted home at the far post.
Two minutes later and the Selecao found themselves three goals to the good as the unfortunate Dossena put past his own keeper, the Liverpool defender sliding in in a desperate bid to cut out Robinho’s square pass as Brazil broke purposefully.
At the break, with Egypt losing by a single goal to the United States, Italy knew they were heading out of the tournament.
A response was needed and to their credit, Lippi’s charges made a decent fist of things in the second half as Guiseppe Rossi, who had been brought on for the ineffective Vincenzo Iaquinta after 38 minutes, stepped up a gear and began to trouble the Brazil defence.
Three times in the space of three minutes, the Villarreal striker tested Julio Cesar, who until that point had enjoyed an extremely comfortable evening.
All three efforts came from distance and all three were struck with real venom but the Internazionale keeper proved himself equal to each shot.
As the situation changed in Rustenburg – the US scored another two, meaning they took pole position to qualify from the group – the Azzurri’s predicament remained the same – score or go home.
A moment of madness from Julio Cesar nearly gifted them a goal, the keeper racing off his line only to be caught in no-man’s land, but neither Daniele De Rossi nor substitute Simone Pepe could apply a finishing touch.
As Italy desperately poured forward in search of the goal that would see them through, they became increasingly susceptible to attack at the back.
Kaka nearly made them pay as he went close to increasing Brazil’s advantage with a curler that took a slight deflection and drifted just wide of the post as time ran out.
In the end, Dunga’s side had to settle for a 3-0 victory while Italy were left to reflect on their performances over the past week in South Africa – a period that has seen them lose two games and show little evidence of the form that made them the reigning world champions.