Italy comfortably beats San Marino 4-0 in friendly
BOLOGNA, Italy (AP) -- Using mostly reserves, Italy comfortably beat tiny San Marino 4-0 in a friendly on Friday.
Midfielder Andrea Poli put the Azzurri ahead in the 28th minute at the Dall'Ara stadium, Alberto Gilardino doubled the lead in the 33rd, Andrea Pirlo made it 3-0 with one of his expert free kicks in the 50th and Alberto Aquilani added another in the 79th.
Among usual Italy starters, only goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and Pirlo began the match, and Buffon was replaced by Salvatore Sirigu for the final 20 minutes.
"I wanted to see some things, and I did. These guys want to show their worth,'' Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said. "We're doing well from a physical standpoint.''
Mario Balotelli came on for Italy in the 49th and hit the woodwork twice.
San Marino, which has won just one match since gaining UEFA membership in 1988, never really threatened.
The oldest republic in the world, which is nestled atop a hill in central Italy, is ranked last in the FIFA rankings, tied for No. 207 with Bhutan and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Next Friday, Italy visits the Czech Republic for a key World Cup qualifier. The Azzurri then travel to Brazil for the June 15-30 Confederations Cup.
In a nod to the local fans, Prandelli started with Bologna forwards Alessandro Diamanti and Gilardino in attack. Atalanta's Giacomo Bonaventura rounded out the forward line in a 4-3-3.
San Marino goalkeeper Aldo Simoncini did well to keep the sheet clean at the start and Italy had two goals ruled out for offside before Poli finally broke the deadlock by scoring his first goal for the national team with an angled shot through Simoncini's legs.
Gilardino then scored his 18th goal for Italy in the 33rd by redirecting a rebound of a shot from Aquilani.
Italy fullback Luca Antonelli exited toward the end of the half with a physical problem and Prandelli began a series of substitutions shortly after the second half started.
However, it was Pirlo who got the next goal by curling a free kick over the San Marino wall for his 12th goal with the Azzurri.
Aquilani, who is vying to make Italy's 23-man squad for the Confederations Cup, had a good match and scored by knocking in a rebound off a free kick from Pirlo.
Balotelli hit the post with a free kick in the 64th, was denied with a diving effort from San Marino's reserve goalkeeper Federico Valentini in the 81st, and hit the crossbar with a header in the 90th.
"I liked his approach,'' Prandelli said. "He came on attempting to score. That's what he always needs to do.''
With Italy's Serie A afflicted by several cases of racist chanting from fans this season, there were anti-racism initiatives surround the match. Before kickoff, Italy captain Buffon and San Marino captain Andy Selva each read an appeal to fans over the stadium's public address system.
Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge, Italy's first black Cabinet minister, attended the game and sat next to Italian football federation president Giancarlo Abete. Before kickoff, she met with Prandelli, Buffon, and Balotelli.
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