Buffon urges Italy to show more composure
Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon says it's time for the Azzurri to forget their tendency for early campaign jitters after a shaky 2-2 draw in Bulgaria gave them an indication that qualifying for the 2014 World Cup finals will not be easy.
Along with Denmark, Armenia, the Czech Republic and Malta, Bulgaria are one of five Group B opponents Italy will face twice over an upcoming 13-month campaign.
And in Sofia on Friday Luboslav Penev's side showed the Euro 2012 finalists they will be no pushovers in the race to qualify for the finals in Brazil.
Cesare Prandelli's side lined up in a relatively rare 3-5-2 formation with Juventus man Sebastian Giovinco playing slightly behind Roma striker Pablo Osvaldo.
But while Osvaldo scored a first-half double to open his international account, Italy were disorganised, found lacking in defence and ultimately allowed an attack-minded Bulgaria side to boss them for long periods.
Buffon failed to stop a 30-metre rocket from Bulgarian Stanislav Manolev, which broke the deadlock in the 31st minute.
And while Osvaldo's subsequent brace gave Italy breathing space, they were left regretting his missed chance on the stroke of half-time especially after Bulgaria ripped them to shreds to score a deserved equaliser in the 66th minute.
Buffon, whose outstanding performances at Euro added to his legendary status, said they had even done well to escape with a point following a lively end in which their hosts came close to snatching a winner.
"The Bulgarians deserved the draw, we were even lucky not to suffer more after a lively final 20 minutes," Buffon said.
Buffon admitted Italy's failure to take control had allowed a "very good" Bulgaria side to step up a gear: "Historically, we struggle in our first matches of qualifying.
"And when you're suffering on the pitch you lose composure. Bulgaria showed they have a really good team but the way we played gave them confidence as well."
Bulgaria opened the scoring when Malonev was given space to run unhindered through midfield to unleash a 30-metre drive which bounced in front of Buffon before hitting the net.
Minutes later Osvaldo grabbed his maiden Italy goal when Claudio Marchisio headed a Leonardo Bonucci cross into his path for him to beat Nikolay Mihaylov from close range.
Four minutes later Osvaldo stooped to header a deep cross past Mihaylov, although the ball deflected off a stunned Ivanov and into the net.
The Roma striker missed a great chance for a hat-trick on 45 minutes although before then Bulgaria Ivelin Popov had spurned two excellent chances to put the hosts ahead.
Bulgaria dominated again in the second half and their 66th minute equaliser followed a superb three-pronged attacking move which gave Milanov time to pick his spot and beat Buffon from 10 metres out.
Italy -- beaten 4-0 by Spain in the Euro 2012 final two months ago -- now turn their attention to Malta in Modena on Tuesday knowing improvements will be expected.
"We know we can do much better," said defender Andrea Barzagli, who admitted the Azzurri "weren't compact enough".
"I hope it will be much better against Malta. We have to forget this match and show that Italy is still a force to be reckoned with."
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