Italy and the Republic of Ireland played out an eventful 0-0 draw Saturday at Craven Cottage in London as the Azzurri prepared for the upcoming FIFA World Cup. But the match was overshadowed by a serious injury to Italian midfielder Riccardo Montolivo.
Both teams created several chances, Italy having a goal ruled out in the first half and Ireland hitting the post after the break.
Montolivo left the match on a stretcher in the 15th minute following a challenge with Ireland's Alex Pearce. As confirmed by the team's doctor (see quotes below), Montolivo is set to miss the World Cup.
Coach Cesare Prandelli still has not decided his final 23-man roster ahead of Monday's deadline, and although Montolivo's form with AC Milan during the most recent club season was uneven, B/R's Anthony Lopopolo noted that the midfielder often plays better for his country:
Feel for Montolivo. Always plays his best with Italy. Hope he can recover in time, but Prandelli has to announce his 23-man squad on Monday.— Anthony Lopopolo (@sportscaddy) May 31, 2014
Meanwhile, Prandelli is also expected to make a tough decision on whether to include striker Giuseppe Rossi, who missed four months of the most recent club season through injury. Speaking to reporters this week (h/t ESPN FC), Prandelli said: "We've had positive signs from him in training. However, we have to consider how he will react from a psychological standpoint to contact."
Italy's World Cup preparations conclude Wednesday with a home match against Luxembourg in Perugia. The Azzurri will then travel to Brazil and compete in Group D, opening against England on June 14 before facing Costa Rica and Uruguay.
Both teams created chances throughout a scoreless first half, but perhaps the best opportunity fell to Ireland in the 34th minute. Aiden McGeady beat his marker on the left, cutting to the byline before crossing to the back post. An unmarked Shane Long met the pass with a header, but his attempt flew too close to Italian goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu, who saved easily.
Ireland carried the greater threat early in the second half as well, Long forcing another save from Sirigu in the 48th minute after Wes Hoolahan won possession in midfield. Italy then had a goal ruled out seven minutes later after an offside Ciro Immobile tapped in from Marco Parolo's cross.
Italy continued to improve as the half wore on and Leonardo Bonucci came close to scoring the opener, heading over from a 61st-minute corner. Five minutes later, Claudio Marchisio shot tamely at David Forde following Giuseppe Rossi's lay-off in the box.
Ireland created another big chance in the 79th minute, substitute Stephen Quinn hitting the woodwork after latching on to James McClean's cross. Moments later, Sirigu saved McGeady's low shot to keep the match scoreless.
According to Italian team doctor Enrico Castellacci, Montolivo suffered a tibia fracture. He added that the 29-year-old midfielder requires surgery and will miss the World Cup.
Speaking to Italian television (h/t Football Italia), he said:
He has a fracture of the tibia. I’m waiting to see the radio graphical results before assessing everything, but more or less every tibia fracture needs surgery.
There will be no World Cup for Montolivo, I’m so sorry for the boy. He will probably need around two months out.