World Cup Qualifying: Italy Suffer Shocking Draw Against Bulgaria

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 7, 2012

SOFIA, BULGARIA - SEPTEMBER 07:  Pablo Osvaldo #9 of Italy battles with Ivan Ivanov #15 and Ivelin Popov (R) of Bulgaria during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier group B match between Bulgaria and Italy at Vasil Levski National Stadium on September 7, 2012 in Sofia, Bulgaria.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Italy began their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign on Friday with a disappointing 2-2 draw on the road against Bulgaria.

Coming off a successful Euro 2012 campaign in which they made the final before losing to Spain, Italy were looking to get off to a strong start in Group B of UEFA qualifying.

Azzurri manager Cesare Prandelli named a starting 11 that featured mostly experienced players but he did mix in some young players like Emanuele Giaccherini and Pablo Osvaldo.

Osvaldo's inclusion to the starting lineup was a smart decision by Prandelli as the 26-year-old delivered both goals for the Azzurri.

However, Osvaldo's double was not enough to hold off the hosts on Friday night.

Playing with an underdog mentality throughout the whole match, Bulgaria gained momentum and belief in the 30th minute when Stanislav Manolev scored the opening goal of the match.

Osvaldo scored both of his goals in a three-minute time span, the goals came in the 37tth and 40th minutes, Italy went into halftime up by a goal.

In the second half, Bulgaria continued their pressure on the Italian defense and were rewarded with their second goal in the 66th minute. Georgi Milanov scored his first goal for his country and sent the crowd in Sofia into an uproar.

Neither team had many chances for the rest of the second half and the match ended in a draw, a bad result for Italy, who should have earned all three points from the match.

The good news for the Azzurri is that they should get easy wins over Malta and Armenia before facing Denmark on October 16 in Milan.

As for Bulgaria, earning a point against one of group favorites is a morale booster and it will give them hope to snatch points away from Denmark, who visits Sofia on October 12.

The next matches in Group B for both clubs occur on Tuesday with Bulgaria hosting Armenia and Italy at home against Malta.

In the other Group B match on Friday, Armenia beat Malta (1-0) and took the early lead in the group.

Denmark will host the Czech Republic on Saturday in the other match this weekend involving the teams in Group B.