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Italy sneak past brave Faroes to close on Euro
Italy rode their luck to snatch a 1-0 victory over the Faroes Islands here on Friday and close in on qualification for the 2012 European Championships.
Antonio Cassano scored the only goal of the game from a suspiciously offside looking position to leave the 2006 world champions needing to beat Slovenia on Tuesday in Florence to ensure their place in Poland and Ukraine next year.
But it was anything but easy going in the remote island as the Faroes twice hit the woodwork on a nervy night for the Italians.
Even so, coach Cesare Prandelli's team need only two more points from their final three games or for Serbia to fail to win all of their final three to secure top spot in qualifying group C.
Last time Italy came here they were roundly criticised following a narrow 2-1 victory and they won't escape the brickbats this time either, despite Prandelli insisting Thursday he would be happy with any win.
But goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon wasn't too impressed.
"The good thing is that we've got three points and that's a good step forward in terms of qualification," he said.
"It was a very similar game to four years ago (also in a Euro qualifier) when we won 2-1 but were struggling at the end.
"We did really well in the first 10 minutes and created loads of chances but after the goal we seemed to slow down.
"If we don't suffer in the easiest games then we're not happy and we maintained that tradition," he added ironically.
Prandelli was annoyed his team didn't turn near 70 percent possession into more goals.
"We tried to create chances and in the beginning we managed that but we weren't very clinical," he told RAI TV.
"With the supremacy we had in midfield we should have been more effective but we often messed up the final pass."
And yet his new-look Italy started with the verve and ingenuity that he has been looking to foster, forcing home goalkeeper Rene Torgard into three saves in the first 70 seconds.
Twice he parried strikes from Riccardo Montolivo from distance while he also blocked Cassano's close range effort after Andrea Pirlo's sumptuous clip over the top of the defence.
Torgard was overworked and denied Giuseppe Rossi from close in on eight minutes, but the resistence didn't last.
Another excellent chipped ball from Pirlo found Cassano behind the defence and despite pressure from Torgard and a defender as he turned, he managed to bundle past the pair and slot into the empty net.
The Faroes had done nothing but defend until a rare counter on 20 minutes when Joan Edmundsson let fly from 20 yards and his shot deflected off Giorgio Chiellini and dipped over goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon but landed on the roof of the net.
Moments later they went even closer as Suni Olsen let fly from 25 yards only to see his skimming shot crash back off the post with Buffon helpless again.
Italy continued to enjoy the better of things and Torgard pushed away a shot from Daniele De Rossi and a long-range missile from Domenico Criscito but by now the hosts were at least making a fist of things.
Italy upped the ante after the break and piled forwards with Torgard saving with his foot from Rossi.
But the Faroes were defending doggedly and causing some anxious moments on the counter.
Torgard saved again from De Rossi but then the hosts hit the woodwork for the second time.
Hjalgrim Elttor scampered down the right and crossed to the back stick where Christian Holst's volley came back off the crossbar.
Buffon then had to get down quickly to make a smart save from Pol Johannes Justinussen's diving header.
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