There were just six minutes of normal time left and Italy were still looking for the goal that would secure qualification for Euro 2012. The Azzurri had prodded and probed for most of the night, but breaking the deadlock had been beyond them thanks to a mixture of poor finishing and stout Slovenian defending.
With Italy now playing in a 4-3-3 formation following the introduction of Mario Balotelli and Giampaolo Pazzini, fellow substitute Claudio Marchisio fired a long ball towards the pair. Pazzini went up for the header, and missed it, before a fortunate rebound fell invitingly in front of him. Without hesitation, he fired it into the back of the net from close range.
Although not guaranteed a place in Cesare Prandelli's starting XI, Pazzini, over the course of a season, had put to one side the difficulties that affected his relationship with the tactician at Fiorentina. The striker had done enough during subsequent spells at Sampdoria and then Inter to become a regular fixture in the Giro Azzurro. So much so that only Giorgio Chiellini, Antonio Cassano and Andrea Pirlo made more appearances in qualifying than the 27-year-old.
That strike last September, however, seems a lifetime away now. Almost eight months on and Pazzini has had his most complicated campaign since a lack of playing time under Prandelli, in Florence, led to his January 2009 departure to the port city of Genoa.
During a term in which Inter have underperformed and needed three Coaches to mount a serious bid at qualifying for next season's Champions League, Pazzini has suffered the consequences of playing for a misfiring team and being challenged on a tactical level by a phenomenal scorer in Diego Milito.
Pazzo has an astonishing goal record at San Siro given that Inter have won every League game in which the former Atalanta youth product has netted. While that was impressive last term following 11 strikes in just 17 games, his touch has deserted him this time around.
Pazzini has grabbed only five goals in Serie A since last September and amazingly none of them have come via his capable heading ability. When you take into consideration his three Champions League efforts, Pazzini is running the risk of failing to get into double figures domestically for the first time since 2007-08.
Giampaolo's last goal was an inconsequential penalty in the European Cup defeat to Marseille. His previous strike to that was back in January 22 when he lobbed Federico Marchetti in a crucial 2-1 win over Lazio. Milito, on the other hand, has celebrated 22 times this term.
While the March appointment of Andrea Stramaccioni has revitalised the side and some of its struggling individual components, it hasn't had the same sort of effect on Pazzini. While previous boss Claudio Ranieri insisted that Milito and Pazzini could co-exist, the former Primavera tactician is adamant that they can't.
“We are talking about two important players, but a pair who are not compatible in my opinion,” stated the 36-year-old on Tuesday. “It will be hard to see them start a game together. Giampaolo is working well, but even my grandmother would be able to judge Milito's last few games – they've been extraordinary.”
Pazzini was given an opportunity against Cesena at the weekend, but didn't take it to make his case to be considered for starts in the three remaining games of the season versus Parma, Milan and Lazio. Those matches will not only decide Inter's Champions League ambitions, but probably also Pazzini's Euro 2012 fate and his Nerazzurri future.
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