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  Results & Reviews: Match 21


Too little, too late
Italy ousted from Euro 2004 despite 2-1 victory over Bulgaria

Italy scored an injury time winner through Antonio Cassano for a 2-1 victory over Bulgaria but still went out of Euro 2004 on Tuesday.

Martin Petrov converted a penalty kick in the final minute of the first half to put Bulgaria ahead in the teams' Group C finale and midfielder Simone Perrotta equalized for Italy in the 48th.

The game was into the third minute of injury time when Cassano scored the winner with a close range shot but the Italians heard that Denmark and Sweden had tied 2-2 which put the Italians out.

The victory, coupled with 0-0 and 1-1 ties against Denmark and Sweden in its opening matches, made Italy the first team to be eliminated from the Euros without a loss since group play was introduced in 1980.

It also meant the Azzurri, who were runners up to France
« Summary »

Group C 22 June 2004 1945 CET

D. Afonso Henriques, Guimarăes Attendance 16,002


Perrotta 48
Cassano 94

M.Petrov 45
Italy (4-3-3) Buffon; Panucci, Nesta, Materazzi (Di Vaio 83), Zambrotta; Fiore, Pirlo, Perrotta (Oddo 68); Cassano, Del Piero, Corradi (Vieri 53).
Bulgaria (4-4-2) Zdravkov; Pazin (Kotev 64), Borimirov, Zagorcic, Stoyanov; Petkov, M.Petrov, Lazarov, Hristov (Dimitrov 79); Yankovic (Bojinov 45), Berbatov.
Referee Valentin Ivanov (RUS)

in 2000, had gone out in the first round for three of the last four Euros.

Cassano's delight in scoring the winner was soon ended when the Italians heard the result from Porto and he burst into tears. Because the two Scandinavian neighbors tied 2-2, the Italians went out on their lack of goals against them, even though they all finished with five points.

Despite pre-match fears that the Danes and Swedes would deliberately play for a 2-2 tie to knock the Italians out, coach Giovanni Trapattoni did not suggest that game was fixed.

"Despite that everybody was talking about that, there is a sports ethic and I believe it was like that (ethical)," Trapattoni said.

"If I don't see the goals, I'm hesitant to believe it was a fix. Certainly, that result could raise some doubts, but I remain convinced that, in general, sporting ethics prevail.

"We are leaving the championship with our heads up. We deserved victory against the Swedes. I don't want to judge the referee but there were several bad foul on (Alessandro) Del Piero."

Defender Marco Materazzi, who gave away the penalty that led to Bulgaria's goal, said he didn't believe it had been a foul.

"I cannot understand the penalty," he said. "He was pulling my jersey, when the referee whistled I thought it was in our favor. There was a penalty on Cassano.

"To leave the championship with five points it's bitter. The result of Denmark-Sweden was expected with Denmark going ahead and Sweden coming back each time."

A light, persistent rain made for a slick field at Dom Henriques stadium and both teams had trouble staying on their feet.

Inter Milan defender Marco Materazzi, playing in place of suspended captain Fabio Cannavaro, was called for tripping Bulgaria's star striker Dimitar Berbatov inside the area to set up the penalty.

Petrov, who plays for Wolfsburg in Germany, then slipped a low shot to the right of Gianluigi Buffon as the Italy goalkeeper went the wrong way to the delight of the lively Bulgarian fans sitting directly behind the goal.

Perrotta's score was his first national team goal.

After Cassano's shot struck the crossbar, Perrotta used an acrobatic flick of his leg to knock in the bouncing rebound.

In the 53rd, centerforward Christian Vieri replaced Bernardo Corradi in Italy's attack. Vieri, who started the match on the bench due to a left knee injury, had a chance to put Italy ahead in the 61st when he came flying in to the area, but his header went high.

Vieri sent another header high from a perfect position -- five meters (yards) out -- in the 73rd.

In the 80th, Cassano's powerful, twisting attempt from an angle went wide.

Bulgaria nearly regained the lead with a free kick by Berbatov six minutes from the end but Buffon made an excellent, diving save before Cassano scored the winner.

Italy played without several key starters.

Star playmaker Francesco Totti served the second of a three-match ban for spitting at a Danish opponent in the team's opener and Cannavaro and Gennaro Gattuso were disqualified for picking up two yellow cards in the team's first two matches.

Bulgaria, which lost 5-0 and 2-0 to Sweden and Denmark in its first two matches, was already mathematically eliminated entering Tuesday's game.
- AP



 « Group Standings »

Group C

P W D L F A Pt
Sweden 3 1 2 0 8 3 5
Denmark 3 1 2 0 4 2 5
Italy 3 1 2 0 3 2 5
Bulgaria 3 0 0 3 1 9 0


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 « Match Stats »

2 Goals 1
0 Halftime 1
Yellow cards
Red cards
Free kicks
Shots on target
Shots off target
GL Clearances



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