Adversity brings out best in Italy

MILAN - When Marcello Lippi's anger subsides over the refereeing in Wednesday's 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw with Ireland, the Italy coach will realise his side have rediscovered the resilence of old.

Striker Giampaolo Pazzini was harshly sent off after four minutes in Bari but the Group Eight leaders still managed to take the lead through the tireless Vincenzo Iaquinta and would have won the game had Robbie Keane not struck late on.

Italy are often galvanized by adversity. They won the 2006 World Cup in the midst of a domestic match-fixing scandal and showed the same togetherness in nearly winning a match played with 10 men for almost the duration.

"Playing a game with a man extra was difficult for us because the Italian defence is among the best in the world," said Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni, who often relied on his backline when he was Italy boss.

"I think that even with 10 men Italy managed to knock the ball around well. Italy, thanks to personalities like Daniele De Rossi and Andrea Pirlo, were able to maintain the advantage without suffering from our attempts at pressure."

Uninjured Pirlo, though, was substituted at halftime, leading to some questioning of Lippi's tactics in the Italian media.

A limp friendly defeat by Brazil in February had also led to rare criticism, but Saturday's battling 2-0 qualifying win in Montenegro and the Ireland draw have shown Italy remain a real force.