Diamond geezers shine on to South Africa

Shine on you crazy diamond all the way to South Africa – spiritual home of the sparkling rock.

Just when we thought Marcello Lippi was going all cheap on us, the Azzurri coach polished up his act and the result now is that a point in Dublin and it is party time.

If Lippi retains a midfield where Andrea Pirlo is allowed to pull the strings as a true trequartista and not called upon to cover back on every occasion, then it's definitely game on again.

As if we didn’t know that already, the importance of Daniele de Rossi cannot be underestimated. The AS Roma linchpin had a poor Confederations Cup and a below-par start to the campaign, with suggestions that the break-up of his marriage had dampened his cutting edge.

Well, personal upheaval or not, the schemer was back to his best in front of the back four in Turin, having missed out on the trip to Georgia due to suspension.

A strong foundation was also the springboard for Pirlo to produce the full array of his incisive passing, redeployed as he was that all-important 10 metres or so further up the pitch.

Popping up on the edge of the area, the twinkled-toed AC Milan star set up Fabio Grosso for the opener with a deft chip.

The second goal was equally slick and razor-sharp, with Grosso, Vincenzo Iaquinto and Alberto Gilardino all involved in the one-touch move for Iaquinta to slot home.

Juventus, sorry Italy (well, there were seven Bianconeri in the side and the game was in Turin), were out of sight at the break – and how many times in the last 12 months or so have we been able to say that?

From the scrapheap to top of the pile: unsurprisingly, the national press were fulsome in their praise just as they had been excessive in damning the team a few days ago.

“Golden Italy,” trumpeted La Gazzetta dello Sport while their peers at Corriere dello Sport obviously had one eye on their assignments next summer with a chorus of “World Cup here we come.”

Turin-based Juventus mouthpiece Tuttosport only had eyes for the Old Lady: “Grosso and Iaquinta score, Ital-Juve are flying.”

Caution will still be Lippi’s watchword, even when qualification is finally sealed.

There will be enough dangers lurking out there when the squad heads south next summer and there are still plenty of rough edges to be smoothed out.

But Lippi will want to keep his midfield diamond geezers shining and Italy may have a glimmer of hope of retaining their world crown.


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