Connect to share and comment

Football: Verratti salvages draw for Italy against Dutch

PlacardEnlarge
(GlobalPost/GlobalPost)

A stoppage time goal by Marco Verratti grabbed Euro 2012 finalists Italy a 1-1 draw with a young Dutch side on Wednesday in their friendly match.

The hosts, who extended their unbeaten streak to six games since making a humiliating first round exit at Euro 2012, had taken a 33rd minute lead through Jeremain Lens.

Despite the late equaliser, Dutch coach Louis van Gaal will have been heartened with his side who, with an average age of 22 years and 361 days is the youngest Dutch side in nearly a century.

Their 113 caps in total was 10 less than the amount of Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

Van Gaal, in his second spell in charge after replacing Bert van Maarwijk after the Euro debacle, was happy with the performance if not the result.

"There is once again a lesson to be learnt: in this type of situation we should play to defend the 1-0 lead. Because we didn't we weren't calm at the end of the match.

"I am very disappointed by the result, that is for sure, but in terms of the way we played I am very satisfied."

While Robin van Persie -- the only survivor from the side that played in the 2010 World Cup final -- led the line it was playmaker Adam Maher who shone.

The 22-year-old -- dubbed the future Wesley Sneijder by the Dutch press -- forced Buffon into two excellent saves in the 16th and 25th minutes but he could do nothing to deny Lens.

However, the goal was somewhat controversial as Maher appeared to control the ball with his hand before firing home.

The Italian front two of Mario Balotelli and his Milan clubmate Stephen El Shaarawy were unable to conjure anything up to test Dutch 'keeper Tim Krul.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said he had been happier with the way they played once he changed the system with 20 minutes remaining, and also called for patience with the striking duo.

"Perhaps the expectations surrounding the Balotelli/El Shaarawy duo are too much.

"El Shaarawy has to work to become accustomed to the national team's style of play, where we play two wingers. Perhaps he is not playing in his preferred position, but he has to get used to it."

The second-half was ruined as a spectacle by several substitutions with the Dutch once again having the best of the cyhances but the redoubtable Buffon denied Lens from 20 metres and then Arjen Robben, the veteran Bayern Munich star having been a late call up for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar after he suffered an eye injury.

However, Dutch hopes of recording their first ever friendly win over the Italians were to be denied at the death by Paris Saint Germain's Verratti, who produced a sublime moment of individual magic to level.

bnl/pi/dj

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130206/football-verratti-salvages-draw-italy-against-dutch