The Czech Republic and Italy played to a 0-0 draw in Prague on Friday, each picking up one point towards qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil (via FIFA.com):
The first half of Friday's match was rather uneventful, as Italy dominated possession but failed to mount much of a threatening attack. The half would see the home side manage more opportunities on goal but come away empty on each try, per FIFA.com:
Frank Isola even took a shot at Italian forward Mario Balotelli:
Balotelli would end up stealing the show in the second half, but for all of the wrong reasons. The talented but often confusing strikers picked up two yellow cards in less than five minutes, being sent off and putting his squad down a man with 20-plus minutes left to play (via Jonny Blain):
The Czechs would create some chances late, with substitute Daniel Kolar nearly scoring the go-ahead goal in injury time, but it was not meant to be.
Andy Bedingfield summed up Friday's lackluster qualifier best:
Czech Republic was out-possessed, but out-shot Italy 17-5 in the draw. Shockingly, the Azzurri failed to get a single shot on goal.
Here's how Friday's result impacts Group B, per Azzurri:
Italy's manager, Cesare Prandelli spoke on Balotelli's red card and the result after the match, per Football Italia:
Balotelli has to learn how to accept situations, and he needs to grow in that sense. We will drum that message into him. I was going to substitute him, but I didn’t have time.
I wanted depth, and we did create some interesting moves, but we’re all lacking sharpness at the moment. The most important thing was the result.
The Czechs trail the Italians by five points in Group B with four qualifying matches left to play.
Gianluigi Buffon, Italy: A+
With Italy failing to find any consistency on the attack, Buffon was forced to step up on multiple occasions on Friday.
And the veteran delivered each time, recording six saves in the draw and playing the key role for the Italians en route to picking up one point behind enemy lines (via Dillon Troy Klima):
Petr Jiracek, Czech Republic: B+
The Czech midfielder was aggressive throughout on Friday, looking to create scoring opportunities for his side. Jiracek recorded five shots in the draw, one of which fell on goal.
Although he was unable to break through, he was aggressive during his time on the pitch before coming off late.
Mario Balotelli, Italy: D
Super Mario was quiet for the first hour of Friday's match before picking up two quick yellow cards, being sent off in the 72nd minute. With Italy already struggling offensively, Balotelli's sloppy and out-of-control play was the nail in the coffin for the visitor's chances of getting on the board.
Balotelli was lucky that his teammates stepped up to keep Czech Republic out of the net and off the board. In the end, his premature exit didn't prove to be all that disastrous.
|D||Theodor Gebre Selassie ||A|
|D||Michal Kadlec ||A|
|D||Tomas Sivok ||A|
|D||David Limbersky (Off 20') ||B|
|M||Tomas Rosicky ||B|
|M||Jaroslav Plasil ||B|
|M||Tomás Hubschman ||B|
|M||Petr Jiracek (Off 86') ||B+|
|M||Vladimir Darida (Off 76') ||B|
|F||Libor Kozák ||B|
|D||Marek Suchy (On 20') ||A|
|F||Václav Kadlec (On 76')||B|
|M||Daniel Kolár (On 86')||B|
|G||Gianluigi Buffon ||A+|
|D||Giorgio Chiellini ||A|
|D||Andrea Barzagli ||A|
|D||Leonardo Bonucci ||A|
|D||Ignazio Abate ||A|
|M||Claudio Marchisio ||B|
|M||Daniele De Rossi ||B|
|M||Riccardo Montolivo ||B|
|M||Andrea Pirlo (Off 77') ||B|
|F||Mario Balotelli ||D|
|F||Stephan El Shaarawy (Off 45') ||C|
|M||Sebastian Giovinco (On 45')||B|
|M||Alberto Aquilani (On 77')||B|
Italy will have four days off following Friday's match. The Italians will head to Brazil to take on Haiti on Tuesday in an international friendly match before gearing up for the 2013 Confederations Cup, where they will open up against Mexico.
Meanwhile, the Czech Republic will get a much longer break, not playing again until September, when 2014 World Cup qualifying picks back up in Europe's Group B.
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