GLASGOW, Nov 17 (Reuters) – Italy coach Roberto Donadoni said securing qualification for Euro 2008 with a last-gasp 2-1 victory in Scotland on Saturday was a fantastic achievement.
By Kenny MacDonald
The world champions, who went into the game third in Group B after a mixed campaign, overcame driving rain and a Scottish fightback thanks to Christian Panucci’s stoppage-time header.
“I obviously am overjoyed to reach a European Championship,” Donadoni told a news conference.
“It was a fantastic achievement but the biggest result of all for me is the relationship I have with these players, they went out and battled away for the Italian nation.”
Donadoni, who took over from Marcello Lippi after Italy’s World Cup triumph last year, was under severe pressure but can now relax for Wednesday’s home match against the Faroe Islands.
The result in Glasgow means World Cup runners-up France are also through from Group B at the expense of the Scots.
Luca Toni gave Italy a second-minute lead before Barry Ferguson equalised for Scotland in the 65th. Donadoni then used his three substitutes and Panucci’s winner came from a freekick controversially won on the right.
“Obviously, when a team equalizes they push forward and some fear does creep into your play,” said Donadoni. “It’s important not to give up, that’s why we needed changes because we felt Scotland were weak on the right side.”
The former AC Milan midfielder and Livorno coach praised Scotland and their manager Alex McLeish after they missed out on qualifying despite beating France twice.
“Obviously, the imprint of the manager is on this team, they gave their all in the game,” Donadoni said. “For a team to achieve 24 points (in the group) is a fantastic achievement and it is not by chance or luck that they have done so.”
Italy wore black armbands after a tough period for the Italian game following Sunday’s shooting dead of a Lazio fan by a policeman and subsequent riots. Donadoni said the Hampden Park crowd had shown Italian supporters how to behave.
“The Scottish fans have given us something that we can learn from,” he said.
Scotland boss McLeish was livid at the officials for awarding a marginal freekick that led to Italy’s winner, despite Ferguson appearing offside for the equaliser and Italy’s Antonio Di Natale having a goal wrongly chalked off.
“We didn’t deserve that, to lose that game, we battered them in the second half and they were dead men walking at the end. The set-piece that led to their second goal was an unbelievable decision,” McLeish told the BBC.