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After breaking the deadlock, and an 11-month goal drought, by scoring in the 5-0 defeat of the Faroe Islands, Italy striker Alberto Gilardino described getting back on the international scoresheet as "a great feeling".
Gilardino had not scored for the Azzurri since a hat-trick in a 3-2 FIFA World Cup qualifying win against Cyprus in Parma on 10 October 2009, but after five games without a goal, he put his side in the ascendancy with a towering header past Gunnar Nielsen after 11 minutes; a goal made all the sweeter for coming at the ground where he plies his trade with ACF Fiorentina.
"It was very important for me to get that goal, especially as it broke the deadlock," said the 28-year-old. "
I hadn't scored for ages so it was certainly a goal that I was desperate to score. To do so in Florence, in front of my own supporters, was a great feeling."
Gilardino had been left out of Cesare Prandelli's starting lineup for the 2-1 win in Estonia on Friday, so crowning a strong showing with his 17th goal on his 44th appearance will have given his former Parma FC and Fiorentina coach food for thought for the upcoming encounter with Slovenia on 8 October.
"I don't regard the competition as a hardship at all," said Gilardino, whose opener was added to by strikes from Daniele De Rossi, Antonio Cassano, Fabio Quagliarella and Andrea Pirlo to take Italy top of Group C. "In fact I welcome it. It motivates me and if there are more centre-forwards to increase the competition then so much the better. The more great strikers there are the better, because I fancy my chances against them.
"I don't think that I have preferential treatment over anyone else just because I have worked with Prandelli before, because we have all been given the same chance to impress. I have a lot of experience now and I will strive to prove that every time Prandelli picks me."
It was also a memorable night for Emiliano Viviano. Fresh from winning his first cap at the ground where he used to come to watch his boyhood club from the Curva Fiesole, the Bologna FC goalkeeper was delighted with his night's work. "It was a perfect debut," he said. "It couldn't have gone any better and it was emotional for me.
"I never thought I'd make my debut in Florence in front of my home supporters because the chances were so slim.
Playing for your country is an incredible achievement in itself but doing it in Florence was almost impossible to believe. The supporters reacted really well to me but I know these people well and I was expecting a rousing reception. Now we need to build on this and keep improving as we will most likely have harder matches along the way, so we have to be ready."
Even Faroe Islands defender Atli Gregersen commended the crowd on what was an otherwise miserable night for the visitors. "It was fantastic to play in front of all these supporters, who were magnificent, but the result was not at all a good one for us," said the Ross County FC defender. "It's very difficult to play against Italy and once they got in front they were very good at keeping the ball.
We are very honest players and we are always the underdogs and I suppose tonight it wasn't meant to be."
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