Bright future on pitch marred by scenes off it

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The revolution starts now – and not before time.

The Italian press may not have been that impressed with the goalless draw in Bulgaria but Marcello Lippi certainly can be, as he stretched his unbeaten run as Italy coach to 29 games.

Having finally decided to get rid of the deadwood such as Alessandro Del Piero and Andrea Barzagli, a few new faces were introduced who, if they keep on the right track, should be part of the squad to defend the World Cup in South Africa.

Out with the old: Del Piero & Barzagli dance off into the sunset 

A clear-out has been a long time in coming, and in the time-lines of international matches that would have been since the summer debacle in Switzerland and Austria.

Thankfully, we should never see Massimo Ambrosini’s name on the an Italy squad sheet again and let us have no more talk of the second, or is it the third, coming of Antonio Cassano, although Del Piero certainly won’t go quietly off into the sunset.

But enough of the past, Italy’s strength has always been their ability to bring players through from the U21 set-up to the senior side.

And during the draw in Sofia, where despite the media falling back to default mode of grumbling about not winning, Italy played the hosts off the park for long periods.

Then, New Jersey-born Giuseppe Rossi made his debut and Riccardo Montolivo was given his first start as the new blended with the old.

The future's bright... the future's Rossi 

Both stepped-up seamlessly into the more ratified air of a World Cup qualifier and are set to remain there for the foreseeable future.

Rossi, the little striker who Sir Alex Ferguson thought couldn’t make it at Manchester United and so was shipped-off to Villarreal, looks a certain starter against Montenegro and with Daniele De Rossi a major doubt with a thigh strain, Fiorentina’s Montolivo could well retain his place in midfield.

Simone Pepe has had to wait a few years to make the jump from the Azzurrini, but at 25 the Udinese winger was an inspired Lippi choice especially with Mauro Camoranesi’s ongoing injury problems.

Then there is another young Blue on the bench, Napoli’s Fabiano Santacroce, whose time in defence will come sooner rather than later.

Waiting in the wings is the mercurial Sebastian Giovinco and Lippi even believes that this side is further ahead of schedule than the heroes of 2006, so with that ringing endorsement in their ears all is set for the rest of the campaign.

Less to be satisfied with were the images beamed back home on Saturday evening of Italian fans in full-on fascist salute mode inside the Levski stadium, and then the sight of what was definitely a first: baton-wielding police wading into the Italian supporters.

Italy fans clash with Bulgarian police in Sofia 

Three away fans were arrested while a number of fascist banners were confiscated. The Italian FA claim they have the names of all the visiting fans and are set to name and shame those who harked back to a darker era in the country’s history.

Let’s hope the FA make good with their word especially with the future looking so bright on the pitch.

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