Italy vs. Finland: Score, Reaction from 2016 International Friendly

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistJune 6, 2016

Italy's Antonio Candreva, right, celebrates with his teammate Leonardo Bonucci after scoring during the international friendly soccer match between Italy and Finland, at the Bentegodi stadium in Verona, Italy, Monday, June 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

Italy handled Finland in their international friendly on Monday, winning 2-0 in their final match ahead of the upcoming UEFA Euro 2016 tournament. 

Antonio Candreva gave the hosts a deserved lead from the penalty spot during the first half, and Italy could have scored more goals, as the Azzurri wasted several chances and Finland barely crossed midfield.

Daniele De Rossi added a second goal in an uneventful second half. Italy's next match will be their first Euro 2016 contest against Belgium on Monday, June 13.

As shared by the team's official Twitter account, Italy rested a handful of key starters, including Gianluigi Buffon and De Rossi:

Italy @azzurri

Check out the starting XI for the #Azzurri in #ItalyFinland 🇮🇹🇫🇮 #ITAFIN #VivoAzzurro https://t.co/WDczjuJRka

As expected, the Azzurri took control of the ball from the opening and went to work on breaking down a Finnish defence that struggled to contain Belgium's attack in the second half of their last friendly.

Emanuele Giaccherini missed a free-kick from a good position to squander Italy's first chance, and Simone Zaza headed wide after a well-worked corner eventually reached the Juventus man.

Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

Zaza and Ciro Immobile are both in the running to start alongside Graziano Pelle at Euro 2016, and of the two, the Juventus star enjoyed the better half. Immobile comically skied a volley after another dangerous cross, and per James Horncastle of BT Sport, the Torino man did little else of note early:

James Horncastle @JamesHorncastle

Immobile so far has an air shot to his name and a problem with his boots.

Lukas Hradecky did well to claim a dangerous cross from Candreva, as the hosts kept pushing the ball wide to create danger, and Zaza created some space for his left foot to fire the first shot on target, barely troubling the stopper.

Immobile perhaps should have scored after 18 minutes after Zaza cleverly released him with a flick, but the Finnish defence got back just in time and pressured him into a wide effort.

Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

While the Italians impressed with their work out wide, the ball didn't move fast enough to pull the defenders out of position. As a result, the Azzurri were forced into numerous long-range shots, and most flew off target. Giaccherini went close with one effort after lovely work from Stephan El Shaarawy, but overall, Italy didn't trouble Finland that much.

One lapse in concentration gave the hosts the lead, however. Perparim Hetemaj chose the wrong time to stick out a leg, just as Candreva was spinning past him. The official had no choice but to award a penalty, which the Lazio Roma man converted.

These fans shared footage of the goal from the stands:

F.C. Indà @indafc

Gol Candreva live 1-0 #ItaliaFinlandia https://t.co/3FbZXxFgzm

The Azzurri didn't take their foot off the gas and went looking for a second goal, and Marco Parolo came close, sending a header wide. Zaza had a shot blocked, and El Shaarawy's ambitious attempt from long range failed to hit the target.

Italy's midfield remained in complete control throughout the half, one the Finns would end without a single shot on goal. The final chance of the half fell to Leonardo Bonucci, who had an opening for another shot from distance after an odd set-piece routine, but once again, he didn't test Hradecky.

At half-time, Football Italia's David Swann didn't seem too impressed with El Shaarawy's performance:

David Swan @DavidLSwan

Want more from El Shaarawy. If you're going to play him there over Darmian, then the return should be greater offensive punch

The visitors started the second half in a more positive fashion, becoming more involved in the midfield battle, but Candreva fired the first chance of the half on goal, finding Hradecky in his path.

Manager Antonio Conte waited long to make his substitutions, introducing De Rossi and Stefano Sturaro after 63 minutes. El Shaarawy chose that time to fire the next chance on goal, but his volley took a deflection and went out for a corner kick.

Football Italia thought De Rossi's impact was on display early:

footballitalia @footballitalia

So far De Rossi is making Thiago Motta look like, well, Thiago Motta. LIVEBLOG https://t.co/4Q7vFoYZZB #ITAFIN https://t.co/Z3DaNOFBYA

The Roma star set up El Shaarawy with a great through ball shortly after coming on, and just minutes later, De Rossi doubled his team's lead with a strong header.

Hradecky continued his fine night with another big save, this time showing his reflexes to deny Zaza, and the former Sassuolo man tried to trick the goalkeeper a little later with a cheeky shot from way out, but he didn't fool the Finn.

On the other side of the pitch, Roman Eremenko finally mustered Finland's first chance of the match, blasting a shot over Salvatore Sirigu's goal. Immobile headed a chance just wide after 83 minutes, at which point the pace of the match dropped, and Italy easily held on for the win.

Post-Match Reaction

Speaking to Rai Sport (h/t Football Italia), Conte made it clear he wants his team to play at a higher pace when they take on Belgium:

We are working, I confirm what I said before, which is we must take it one game at a time.

We won these two friendlies, we have another week of work before Belgium, so we must try to improve the tempo, intensity and some tactical situations.

I can say for certain that this group of lads is made up of good men and very good players. In such brief tournaments, you need the players to be happy with each other and it’s very satisfying for me to see them get along so well.

I cannot fault the effort they are putting in.

The Belgians cruised to an easy 3-1 win when these two teams met in Brussels last year, but the Red Devils haven't looked nearly as dominant in recent weeks and enter Euro 2016 with major injury concerns.

They remain favourites in Group E, but Italy's tremendous defensive fortitude gives the Azzurri more than just a fighting chance. Scoring is incredibly difficult against Conte's men, and while their lack of creative forces up front remains a concern, Italy will give everyone a tough challenge.

Italy will also face Ireland and Sweden during the group stages.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.