Thursday 21 June 2012

Memory: Montella Decides England vs Italy Friendly 2002

Gattuso (left) and Montella celebrate scoring against England
The friendly between England and Italy at Elland Road, Leeds was played in late March, about two-and-a-half months before the 2002 World Cup.  Azzurri coach Giovanni Trapattoni fielded Marco Delvecchio and Francesco Totti up front, while the midfield was comprised of Gianluca Zambrotta, Cristiano Doni, Luigi Di Biagio, and Cristiano Zanetti.  Gianluigi Buffon played behind a defence of Marco Materazzi, Alessandro Nesta, Fabio Cannavaro, and Cristian Panucci.

Italian expectations going into the World Cup were high, and a friendly against England was a perfect way to fine-tune their preparations--even if Alessandro Del Piero and Christian Vieri were not part of the friendly.

The game was more or less uneventful until the 63rd minute.  Nesta, mostly infallible, surprisingly lost the ball cheaply to Joe Cole, who in turn fed Robbie Fowler for a goal.

However, England's lead lasted only four minutes.  Vincenzo Montella, who replaced his Roma teammate Totti, unleashed a superb high shot from the edge of the area past David James into the top left corner.  Of course, Montella subsequently rejoiced with the classic aeroplane celebration.

But there was more to come.  In the 90th minute, Montella turned brilliantly in midfield and found a surging Massimo Maccarone, who was brought down in the box clumsily by James.  Montella calmly converted the resulting penalty to give Italy the 2-1 win.

Curiously, Maccarone scored the sole Italian goal in a 1-1 friendly draw between the Under-21 sides of both nations a day earlier.  He was also to score the winner in Italy's 2-1 win over England at the European Under-21 Championship in May of 2002.

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