Welcome to Japan! We’re going to bring you Italy vs Scotland as it happens (work with me here) but before we get to that, if you’re new to this you’re probably wondering just what the heck is going on. Well, in Part 1 I set about turning the qualification campaign around and was pretty successful in doing so. In Part 2 we sealed qualification and underwent the tedious friendlies and the other fun that goes with preparing for a major tournament. Here’s the 23 man squad I’ve selected for this journey
Beautiful graphics. There were surprise call ups for Chris Innes and Jim Paterson, the uncapped pair replacing Christian Dailly and Gavin Rae.
The Scots are in Tokyo for their first and last group game but will play Senegal in South Korea in between, which is just awful scheduling.
Hot off the press, here’s the team David Black has named to take on Italy today:
It’s been the problematic second striker spot that has caused Black the most headaches, with Neil McCann getting the nod this afternoon. Mark Kerr has played mostly for Roma’s reserves but his hat trick against Greece back in November shows he’s worth taking a risk with. Barry Ferguson skippers the side.
Italy’s team is absolutely jam-packed with talent. Giovanni Trapattoni has opted for a 5-3-2 of sorts but with Totti supplying Montella and Inzaghi, it’s anything but defensive.
Earlier today saw the first game in this group, with India pulling off a slightly surprising 1-0 win over Senegal. The bookmakers odds will tell you that those two sides and Scotland are playing for second place behind Italy, who are runaway favourites for the group, but I suspect we’ll know how certain that is after this game.
We’re almost ready for kick off. It’s a fairly warm 19 degrees – certainly warmer than Scotland is but hardly tropical. The referee is about to lead the teams out – Louis Andreous doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page, so he’s either fictional or just kept himself out of trouble. Hopefully he won’t be a factor.
Here come the teams! The now traditional big flags are out, and as you’d expected the Tartan army are in great voice. One side of the National Stadium here in Tokyo is emblazoned with blue and white. They’re ready to see an upset but I feel they would probably settle for a heroic display, as they got in the opening game of the 1998 World Cup against Brazil. Time for the anthems…
Flower of Scotland predictably belted out by all 11 of the Scottish team as well as the travelling Scottish contingent. It’s time…let’s kick off.
KICK OFF – McPhee and McCann kick us underway. Scotland is their white change kit, Italy in traditional blue.
3 mins – Not a bad start from Scotland, crunching into a few challenges and popping the ball around nicely. They’ve even got the audacity to win a corner, which Stephen McPhee knocks down towards David Weir but Alessandro Nesta knocks it behind for a second corner. Buffon claims that one though, and that is that.
5 mins – You know those challenges where they’d be a yellow card if it was 10 minutes more into the game? Yeah, that. Barry Ferguson cuts out a pass in midfield and is immediately dragged back by Stefano Fiore. As blatant as it comes, that. No card though.
8 mins – GOAL FOR ITALY! Scotland 0 – 1 Italy (Totti)
Oh Scotland. After such a promising start, things were just starting to settle down before the Italians flexed their muscles for the first time. Montella had drifted wide and crossed to the far post where the overlapping Pancaro arrived with a beautiful side foot volley. Douglas parries it away, which in isolation is a decent save, but it’s right back into the danger zone and Francesco Totti arrives on the scene to blast into an empty net. Out of nothing.
11 mins – Scotland are trying to play their way back into this but this Italian defence is stereotypically tight. They give nothing away. McPhee hasn’t had a sniff yet.
15 mins – Chance! Save! Steven Nicholas is at the heart of it, picking out Colin Cameron on the edge of the box. Cameron feints one way then the other before drilling in a low shot that goes through Materazzi’s legs but Buffon gets down well to tip it wide. Here’s the corner…
16 mins – Crikey, Lee Wilkie has a hard head. He has met this corner as perfect as a man can head a ball but Fabio Cannavaro is in the way before it threatens Buffon’s goal. Promising though.
20 mins – Everytime Italy string it together you get the feeling they might score. Fiore and Gattuso combine this time, with the former Rangers man drifting a cross towards Montella. Montella could go for goal but instead heads it back for the arriving Totti, whose first time volley clips the crossbar. It’s beautiful football, and a lucky escape for Scotland.
24 mins – Go on lad! Mark Kerr picks the ball up and all of a sudden nobody wants to tackle him. He strides forward 30 yards unopposed and decides to have a hit from outside the box. It swerves and Buffon is almost bamboozled, with the shot spilling out of his hands before Cannavaro is first on the scene (as usual) to clear.
28 mins – Italy are purring again. Can countries purr? Well, whatever they are doing, it’s sumptuous football. Pancaro and Zambrotta combine before Zambrotta sprays a ball 30 yards towards Montella. There’s one bounce before Montella leathers it goalwards – Rab Douglas is very worried but the volley doesn’t dip enough and Scotland survive.
30 mins – The blue onslaught continues. This time it’s Inzaghi, meeting a Gattuso freekick with a glancing header which Douglas does well to tip over. Then from the resulting corner, seemingly Scotland haven’t learned a thing and Inzaghi beats Naysmith to the header, only for the header to fly wide. It’s coming…
32 mins – Jackie McNamara is furious. He thinks Montella took a dive but shouting at the referee probably won’t help. It’s a warning but as one of the most experienced members of the team, McNamara should know better.
37 mins – Respite. It’s gone a bit scrappy these last 5 minutes, which probably suits Scotland. Getting to half time just 1-0 down would have to be considered a major success given how the last 10 minutes have panned out.
41 mins – DISALLOWED GOAL
Well, the good news is, the linesman was right. The bad news is, Italy have just shown how good they can be. Firstly, Zambrotta has a hopeful effort that sails over. No problem there. However Douglas makes a mess of the resulting goal kick and Italy are onto it like a flash. Fiore beats a couple before Kerr puts in an unbelievable tackle – but then that presents the ball to Totti. He drifts past a couple of flailing Scotland challenges before smashing a cross-shot across the box, and Gattuso is on hand to score. He’s very fractionally ahead of the play, and to the relief of all of a Scotland persuasion, the flag goes up. He didn’t need to be offside either.
44 mins – Late flurry from Scotland, with Naysmith getting himself forward down the left and then picking out Colin Cameron. His shot is rather wild though, which I suppose is allowed when you’re under pressure from Alessandro Nesta.
45 mins – One minute of added time.
HALF TIME – Italy 1 – 0 Scotland
That flew over. Scotland behind but they’ll be relieved it’s only one. All to play for still.
Here are some half time stats whilst you slurp on your cuppa/beverage of choice
Here are the first half ratings too – it’s not been too bright from many of Scotland’s side I’m afraid.
KICK OFF – Italy get us underway
49 mins – HITS THE BAR!
No, not the Scottish fans, but Gary Naysmith has nearly scored the greatest goal of all time. David Weir steps up on an Italian pass and get the ball wide to Colin Cameron on the right. C squared drifts infield and spots Naysmith breaking his neck to get up with the play. Cameron chips the ball towards the corner of the box where Naysmith meets it with a first time volley that crashes off the crossbar and away for a goal kick. Naysmith looks as surprised as anybody. David Black on the sidelines has a wry smile on his face.
52 mins – SUBSTITUTION
Italy haven’t got going yet this half and they change things up, bringing on Gianluca Pessotto for Giuseppe Pancaro.
56 mins – This match is simmering. Scotland are making the running but are terrified of conceding a second and conceding the game so early in the second half. Italy don’t know where to stick or twist.
58 mins – SUBSTITUTION
Trap is not happy. Now the other wingback is replaced, with Zambrotta off and Luciano Zauri on.
61 mins – The Scotland fans on one side of the ground are celebrating! They are wrong to do so.
It’s another nearly moment for the Scots as Neil McCann goes on a jinking run and finds himself near the byline on the right hand side of the box. McCann has no support and goes for goal on the short side, which hits the side netting. There’s that brief “Is it in!?” moment but reality soon hits and it remains 1-0.
65 mins – David Black is considering changes. He’s in deep discussions with the coaching staff. Is it time to go for broke? It’s only the first group game, but nobody wants to start with a loss.
68 mins – GOAL FOR ITALY! Italy 2 – 0 Scotland (Francesco Totti)
Well that settles that debate. Italy have been in second gear since half time and a fairly simple goal makes it 2-0. Zauri feeds Montella, Montella lays it off for Gattuso who spins in the perfect cross and Totti arrives unmarked to make it 2-0. Somebody should have tracked him, obviously, but there was nobody anywhere near him.
69 mins – SUBSTITUTION
It’s fair to say these changes were already planned but they’ve got their work cut out for them to make a difference now. Cameron is off, replaced by Paul Rudden, whilst Barry Ferguson is off for Craig Burley. Burley takes the armband, which is either sheer laziness or by design. Who knows.
Italy make their final change, bringing on Del Piero for Stefano Fiore. Contrast.
72 mins – YELLOW CARD
Don’t lose your discipline now. Lee Wilkie goes in the book for a fairly agricultural challenge on Montella. Frustration coming to the party.
77 mins – Great challenge from Jackie McNamara, who has had a rough afternoon, but he stops del Piero in his tracks to keep it at 2-0.
82 mins – Scotland still probing away, Craig Burley sets up Steven Nicholas who drives in a low shot that is again spilled by Buffon but Zauri clears it.
83 mins – YELLOW CARD
It’s actually such a good clearance from Zauri it picks out Materazzi , who does the sensible thing and gives it to Totti. Totti, Montella and Inzaghi play some neat one touch passes before Kerr has seen enough and steams in on Inzaghi. It’s an obvious yellow, highlighted by Inzaghi rolling around on the deck.
84 mins – After Inzaghi gets the magic sponge, Totti curls the freekick over the wall and Douglas does well to push it away for a corner.
86 mins – SUBSTITUTION
Final change for Scotland with the recently booked Kerr subbed for Robbie Winters.
88 mins – The game is petering out. Italy have done their job. The crowd is announced as 61,956.
90 mins – The sponsors give man of the match to Francesco Totti. That wasn’t in doubt. 4 minutes added on.
FULL TIME – Italy 2 – 0 Scotland
Scotland weren’t disgraced but they never really threatened an upset. The stats are not totally one sided but Italy’s centre halves were dominant.
It didn’t get much better for Scotland in the ratings either
The three Italian centre halves all rated at 9, so no real surprise McPhee couldn’t lay a glove on them.
Scotland sit bottom of Group E but in many ways the tournament starts now for them. They’ll need to regroup ahead of the clash with Senegal next up. The losers, if there is one, will be all but eliminated.
We’ll be back on Wednesday for Scotland vs Senegal, but you can keep up to date with news from the Scotland camp on our twitter page. Until then, sayonara.