Ciro Immobile’s hat-trick and a Lorenzo Insigne brace secured a remarkable 5-3 friendly win for Italy over Fluminense.
In what was the Azzurri’s final match before the start of their World Cup campaign, Coach Cesare Prandelli rang the changes from last Wednesday’s disappointing home draw with Luxembourg.
Only Ignazio Abate retained his place as Mattia Perin deputised for Gigi Buffon in goal, three changes were made to the back four and the likes of Alessio Cerci, Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne were given a final chance to stake their claim for a place up front against England next week.
Andrea Ranocchia also lined-up in what was a 4-3-3 formation despite the fact he is only on Italy’s World Cup standby list rather than in the 23-man squad.
The Azzurri had the first half chance of the evening in the eighth minute when a corner was swung in from the left. Immobile, however, could only scuff his attempt horribly wide after the ball sat up invitingly for him. Things would certainly improve for the former Torino man.
The remainder of the opening stages were relatively incident free as the home crowd created a raucous atmosphere. Possession was equally shared but the Brazilian club side were not punished despite deploying a potentially dangerous high defensive line.
Out of the relative blue, however, the Azzurri were ahead after 23 minutes. Some good link up play between Marco Parolo two of the front three, Immobile and Insigne, ended with the Napoli man finishing off the move from close range to give Prandelli’s men the lead.
Just two minutes later though, Fluminense were level. A well worked move by the home side ended with the ball being played in from the right to midfielder Chiquinho, who tapped into the open goal.
It was only six minutes before the third goal of the evening arrived. Immobile climbed highest to glance a header home from Insigne's left-wing free-kick to put the Azzurri back in front.
Once again though, Prandelli’s team’s lead was very short lived as the home side again responded excellently to falling behind. In truth, Perin should have kept out left-back Carlinhos’ stabbed finish from inside the area, but instead allowed the ball to squirm agonisingly under his body and trickle over the line.
Shortly before the break, another Azzurri foray forward ended with Ignazio Abate’s left foot shot being deflected just over, but there were no more goals in what was an entertaining first half.
The first incident of note after the restart came just two minutes into the second period. Home striker Walter let fly with an audacious effort from 25 yards, but the ball skidded marginally wide of Perin’s left hand post.
That proved to be merely the calm before the storm though as the Azzurri then hit their opponents with a sensational triple whammy.
First, Immobile slammed the ball home left-footed after home goalkeeper Felipe did well to deny Cerci. Then, the new Borussia Dortmund forward completed an excellent individual performance by again finishing coolly after more poor Fluminense defending left him all alone.
He still wasn’t finished though. No sooner than a minute later the 24-year-old again turned provider, laying the ball on a plate for Insigne to get in on the act once more. Remarkably, four second half minutes had provided three goals for the Azzurri. Immobile incidentally was involved in all five of the Azzurri’s goals on the night, a return that will surely put him right in the frame for a starting berth against the Three Lions next week.
Just after the hour, Prandelli rang the changes by making a total of nine substitutions. Only Marco Parolo and Matteo Darmian were spared as the Azzurri Coach took the opportunity to take a look at other squad members.
Four minutes later, the goal feast continued as home substitute Matheus, who came on a minute before the swathes of Italian changes, turned smartly on the edge of the Azzurri box and arrowed a shot past Italy replacement keeper Antonio Mirante.
The blistering tempo of the contest continued as the teams continued to swap chances like they were going out of fashion. Firstly, midfielder Jean unleashed an excellent effort from distance which was well saved by Mirante, before substitute Claudio Marchisio couldn’t finish for the Azzurri.
Five minutes from time, the Parma shot-stopper was again called into action when he made an instinctive save from Matheus’ audacious flick. Mario Balotelli also attempted a couple of snap shots during his cameo but could not find a way through.
In the end, the five goals had to suffice for the Azzurri on a night that brought an end to their seven-match winless run. It was an performance that should give Prandelli great confidence in terms of his offensive options, but perhaps a few concerns defensively.
Fluminense 3 – 5 Italy
Insigne 23 & 56 (I), Chiquinho 25 (F), Immobile 31, 53 & 55 (I), Carlinhos 37 (F), Matheus 65 (F)
Fluminense: Felipe; Bruno, Carlinhos, Gum, Fabricio; Diguinho, D. Conca; Jean, Chiquinho (Biro Biro 59), Gustavo (Matheus 60); Walter
Italy: Perin (Mirante 61); Abate (De Sciglio 61), Paletta (Bonucci 61), Ranocchia (Barzagli 61), Darmian; Aquilani (Pirlo 61), Thiago Motta (De Rossi 61), Parolo (Candreva 73); Cerci (Cassano 61), Immobile (Balotelli 61), Insigne (Marchisio 61)
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