Giuseppe Rossi was delighted with the success of a strike partnership with Antonio Cassano that garnered a goal for each in Italy's impressive 3-0 UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying win against Estonia on Friday. "I really enjoyed playing alongside him," he told UEFA.com. "Antonio is a great player."
This was the first time Rossi and Cassano had started together in a two-man strike force, and the experiment paid off for coach Cesare Prandelli as the Villarreal CF and AC Milan forwards combined superbly in the final third. Each seemed to instinctively know where the other was and Estonia seemed continually perplexed by the succession of clever flicks and combinations between the pair.
Rossi was twice denied by goalkeeper Sergei Pereiko and hit the post before deservedly getting the breakthrough on 21 minutes after latching onto Cassano's through ball. It was then Cassano's turn to match Rossi by taking international goal tally to six, before the 28-year-old's former UC Sampdoria team-mate Giampaolo Pazzini made it 3-0 after the break.
"The coach wanted us to play an expansive passing game and we all played really well," Rossi told UEFA.com. "We played it out calmly from the back, stroked the ball around neatly, linked up well with each other and scored three great goals. Personally, I don't mind where I play, I'm just happy to play. But
I did enjoy playing alongside Antonio [Cassano]. We forged a great understanding, but it is easy to play with him; he is a great player."
While Rossi and Cassano will receive much of the credit for this fifth Group C victory, a midfield comprising the creative prompting of Andrea Pirlo, Alberto Aquilani and Riccardo Montolivo was also instrumental. Montolivo, in particular, shone, carving out a gilt-edged chance for Cassano before setting up his goal, then picking out former Atalanta BC youth team-mate Pazzini with a searching pass for the third goal.
"Today I played in my preferred position in the diamond and that suited me. Then I pushed up a bit more," said the ACF Fiorentina midfielder. "
As for my understanding with Pazzini, that has been there ever since we played together as kids so it was nice to pick it up again like that.
With a five-point cushion after six matches and a game in hand over second-placed Slovenia, Italy are all but through to the UEFA EURO 2012 finals, but Montolivo is taking nothing for granted. "We really wanted to get back on track after our disappointing World Cup and rediscover our quality," he said. "We are starting to do that now. We try to win every competition we play in so that's how we will approach the European championship, but there's still along way to go."
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