Yugoslavia frustrated Italy tonight to grab an important point on Italian soil and open their EURO 2004™ Group 9 qualifying campaign in positive fashion.
The visiting side got off to an excellent start in Naples when Predrag Mijatovic scored 27 minutes into the game. Alessandro Nesta’s mistake in a tackle gave the ball to Mijatovic just outside the penalty area on the left and he ran at Gianluigi Buffon before bending the ball past the Italy goalkeeper, who had stayed on his line.
Del Piero hits back
Buffon's Juventus FC team-mate, the in-form Alessandro Del Piero, pulled Italy level eleven minutes later. Awarded a free-kick outside the penalty area on the left, Del Piero curled the ball towards the top left-hand corner. The ball hit the wall, took a deflection off Mijatovic and went into the top right-hand corner, leaving Dragoslav Jevric in the Yugoslavia goal stranded.
Italy briefly looked like they might take control of the match, but Yugoslavia came out stronger in the second half, forcing Buffon into a succession of spectacular saves. The result means Italy remain top of the group on four points, one more than Wales who they visit on Wednesday.
After being criticised for playing too defensively at the FIFA World Cup and in their first EURO 2004™ qualifier against Azerbaijan, this match was billed as the comeback of attacking football for Italy. Coach Giovanni Trapattoni had selected his most offensive formation yet – a 4-3-1-2 set-up that closely mirrored the one currently used by AC Milan, but were unable to force a winner.
“We didn't create space for ourselves to attack,” Trapattoni said. “They played well on the counterattack, they pressed us, and whenever we went forward we left spaces behind us.”