Italy 2 Nigeria 2: Two potential England World Cup opponents give Hodgson plenty to think about

 

Craven Cottage

England's management team of Roy Hodgson and Ray Lewington were highly interested observers on a return to their old stamping ground last night as two potential World Cup opponents served up the best match seen at Craven Cottage for a long time..

The two former Fulham managers will have left with much to ponder. While Italy are always tough opponents on this evidence Nigeria could also provide an uncomfortable encounter. Despite fielding a team largely drawn from the domestic league and lesser European teams Nigeria gave Italy a more testing night than they could have expected given the African champions only arrived in London on Sunday after completing their World Cup qualification on Saturday. With the quality of Victor Moses, John Obi Mikel, Shola Ameobi and the outstanding young Lazio midfelder Ogenyi Onazi providing a framework for their less exalted team-mates Nigeria deserved their draw.

Italy, too, were understrength with Cesare Prandelli making eight changes from the team which drew with Germany on Friday. That still meant a forward pair of Mario Balotelli and Guiseppe Rossi were attacking a Nigerian back four who represent Sunshine Stars, Warri Warriors, Heartland and Turkish club Cagkur Rizaspor.

It seemed a mis-match and Balotelli soon turned Warriors' Azubuike Egwuekwe and slid in Rossi for Italy's opener. But after Austine Ejide denied Balotelli Toronto's Bright Dike headed in at the far post to level. Nigeria even went into the break ahead with Ameobi superbly converting Francis Benjamin's left-wing cross at the near post after Moses had launched the attack.

Italy returned playing a much higher tempo and though Balotelli was denied again Sunderland's Emanuele Giaccherini soon equalised. To huge cheers Andrea Pirlo arrived and promptly drew a marvellous save from Ejide. Marco Parolo and Alessandro Diamante both stuck the woodwork but Nigeria held on to further stiffen their rising belief. They have not built on the promise shown in the 1990s but under a local coach, Stephen Keshi, they won the Cup of African Nations last year. Maybe the West African powerhouse are about to pull their weight..

Italy will not be too discouraged. Prandelli took over after the wreckage of Italy’s dismal 2010 World Cup - the four-time winners somehow came bottom of their group behind Paraguay, Slovakia and New Zealand – and took them into the final of Euro 2012. They were then well beaten by Spain, but the memory remained of Balotelli tearing Germany apart in the semi-final.

The Azzurri subsequently cruised to World Cup qualification and in 19 matches this year only Argentina and Brazil have beaten them, the latter in the Confederations Cup which Italy exited only on penalties after pushing Spain to their limits in the semi-finals. They will, as ever, be contenders.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible