Jun 6, 2016 at 7.45pm UK
Candreva (27' pen.), De Rossi (71')
FT(HT: 1-0)

Live Commentary: Italy 2-0 Finland - as it happened

:Headline: Live Commentary: Italy 2-0 Finland - as it happened: ID:274257: from db_amp
Relive Sports Mole's live text coverage of Italy's 2-0 win over Finland, as the Azzurri rounded off their Euro 2016 preparations with another victory.

Italy rounded off their European Championship preparations with a well-deserved 2-0 win over Finland at the Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi in Verona.

For all the Azzurri's dominance, they struggled to create too many openings against a visiting side containing five defenders across the back.

Antonio Candreva did make a telling difference in the end, though, as he scored a penalty - won himself under a challenge from Perparim Hetemaj - before setting up substitute Daniele De Rossi for a second.

Relive how the 90 minutes of action unfolded with Sports Mole's live text coverage below.

Hello and welcome to Sports Mole's live text coverage of the international friendly meeting between Italy and Finland at the Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi in Verona. The European Championship finals are now just four days away - four! - so this match provides the hosts with one final chance to get things right before heading off to France.
Manager Antonio Conte, brought to the helm a little under two years ago, will be on his way to Chelsea after the finals so he will no doubt be desperate to bow out on a high after just one campaign in charge. Results may not be all that important in friendlies, granted, but the Azzurri really do need a morale-boosting performance this evening if they are to gain some much-needed momentum.
Italy will head into the Euros as the sixth favourites to win the whole thing with most bookmakers, which is not all that surprising going by their past pedigree on the big stage. Even four years ago they managed to defy the odds somewhat when making it to the final, only to be brushed aside by a Spain side at the peak of their powers. A lot has changed since then, with many suggesting that this squad is now far weaker than the one we saw in Poland-Ukraine.
The Azzurri's last showing on the big stage - the 2014 World Cup in Brazil - ended in complete disaster as both they and England fell at the first hurdle. Costa Rica and Uruguay proved too strong by taking the top-two spots in that admittedly tough-looking group, and that was more than enough to signal the end of Cesare Prandelli's time in charge. In came Conte in August 2014, bringing some fresh impetus to the Italian set-up.
Conte's first task was to shape his side ready for Euro 2016, which he managed to do in some style. The 2006 World Cup winners made light work of all comers in Group H, winning seven and drawing the other three of their 10 games to finish top ahead of Croatia and Norway. Italy won their first four games under the soon-to-be Chelsea boss, while only suffering three defeats in his 14 games overall since taking charge.
Not only did Italy cruise into the finals, they also managed to try out a few different formations as Conte experimented with a 3-5-2, 4-4-2, 4-2-4 and 3-3-4 set-ups. In their most recent outing, a narrow win over Scotland in Malta a week ago, Conte decided to go with two players up top and a five-man midfield - including the two flying wing-backs in Candreva and Darmian.
As well as winning four in a row upon Conte taking charge, Italy saw their unbeaten post-World Cup run extend to nine games, albeit with three of those ending in a stalemate before defeat to Portugal - one of just three losses under the former Juventus boss. The Azzurri were soon back up and running in qualifying, though, getting the job done in a successful manner before turning their attention towards this month's European Championship finals in France.
Since rounding off their successful qualification campaign with victory over Norway towards the end of last year, Italy have played five friendly fixtures. Comprehensive defeats to Belgium and Germany did not do too much to help confidence, while draws against Spain and Romania also provided contrasting emotions. Conte's men did end their winless run last weekend with victory over Scotland, however, thanks to Graziano Pelle's solitary strike in Malta.
Italy, still under the leadership of Antonio Conte until the end of the upcoming European Championship finals, cruised through Group H to make it to France in style. The ex-Juventus manager tried out a few different formations, never afraid to experiment with one eye on the bigger prize, which may explain why his side so often had to grind out victories - but grind out victories they certainly did to see off the challenge of Croatia and Norway.
Right, without further ado let us now turn attention to some team news from Verona. You can never read too much into these final pre-tournament friendlies, of course, but Conte did suggest this week that he would pick a settled side - one that could well start the opening fixture against Belgium in exactly one week's time. Finland, on the other hand, will have one eye on the long-term future and could include a fewer younger players.

ITALY XI: Sirigu; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Candreva, Parolo, Motta, Giaccherini, El Shaarawy; Zaza, Immobile

FINLAND XI: Hradecky; Arkivuo, Toivio, Arajuuri, Halsti, Uronen; Ring, Sparv, Hetemaj; Pohjanpalo, Eremenko

Plenty of excitement among home supporters this evening no doubt, as Simone Zaza and Ciro Immobile are paired up top for the Italians. We saw Pelle and Eder take up the striking duties in Malta eight days ago, but Conte is now gearing towards that opening against Belgium. As expected, the Azzurri have gone with three at the back and two flying wing-backs, although Matteo Darmian drops out from the 1-0 win over Scotland.
That means a vital role for Stephen El Shaarawy to play as he comes in for the Manchester United man, and Thiago Motta is also in for Daniele De Rossi in midfield. This is an Italian side that, as ever, boasts so much talent in terms of their defensive unit, none more so than arguably the world's finest ever goalkeeper in Gianluigi Buffon. It is Paris Saint-Germain stopper Salvatore Sirigu who is given the nod from the start tonight, but expect that to change in a week's time.
The final alteration for the hosts sees Marco Parolo come into the side, but there is no place for young Fiorentina winger Federico Bernardeschi who was pushing for a start after coming off the bench last time out. He is one of many who will be desperate to make some sort of impression in this final warm-up match ahead of the Euros, so expect Conte to ring the changes around the hour mark.
In terms of the visiting side, manager Hans Backe has seemingly gone with a 5-3-2 formation, focusing more on defence than attack. Conte predicted exactly that, in fact, when telling reporters pre-match that this may not be the most exciting game of football, with his side being forced into creating openings against a side packed with defenders. It could be a busy evening, therefore, for Hredecky between the sticks.
In terms of their attacking options, Roman Eremenko is the man selected in the lone striker role - emphasis on the word lone there! - with the CSKA Moscow man being offered support from deep by Pohjanpalo. Conte hand-picked Finland as tonight's opponents due to their similarity to Scandinavian rivals Sweden, but we will likely see a more reserved showing tonight at the Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi.

ITALY SUBS: Buffon, Eder, Bernardeschi, Darmian, De Rossi, De Sciglio, Florenzi, Insigne, Marchetti, Ogbonna, Pelle, Stuaro

FINLAND SUBS: Jalasto, Joronen, Kauko, Lam, Lod, Maenppa, Moren, Ojala, Pukki, Raitala, Saksela, Vayrnyen

So Antonio Conte has opted to make a handful of changes to his side, then, with Darmian, Buffon and Eder among those to drop out. It is all about rotation at this stage, of course, but it is certainly interesting that he has opted to go with Zaza and Immobile in attack. Bernadeschi, as already touched up, is a tad unlucky to be overlooked this evening although he will likely be given a run-out at some stage.
Finland are currently being managed by the experienced Hans Backe - a man who has taken charge of 16 different teams now in a career spanning a whopping 34 years. That run includes spells at Notts County in 2009 and Manchester City - as assistant - for one season a year beforehand.

The Scandinavian outfit are currently ranked at 67 in the world, having dropped a further six places in the latest set of standings. That puts them below the likes of Mali, Uzbekistan and Cape Verde - no wonder why when taking a look at their recent results. Finland have failed to win in seven matches now, although they did hold Belgium to an unlikely draw in their last outing which is certainly no mean feat.
That 1-1 draw last Wednesday, which could have been even better had it not been for a late Romelu Lukaku strike in Brussels, would no doubt have given Backe a great deal of confidence. The experienced boss had seen his side lose four on the bounce prior to that since the turn of the year - against Norway, Poland, Iceland and Sweden - conceding 10 goals during that run and scoring exactly zero - a poor streak of form to say the least.
Finland actually ended their qualification campaign with a win away to Greece and home to the Faroe Islands, before draws against the groups top-two sides in Romania and Northern Ireland. That is perhaps a fairer set of results to judge tonight's visitors on, rather than their poor recent run - that Belgium draw aside - which could set up an intriguing contest in Verona against an Italy side themselves desperate for a big performance.
Backe's charges finished four points adrift of Hungary in the end for the third-placed finish they were after, meaning focus is now on qualifying for the next World Cup in two years' time. Finland find themselves in a group containing Iceland, Croatia, Ukraine and Turkey for that one - a mixed bag on the face of it but one that they will have to perform well to have any chance of progressing from.
PREVIOUS MEETINGS! Italy have won each of the last five meetings between these two sides, conceding just the single goal during that hot streak. The Azzurri have failed to score more than twice in a single match against their opponents, however, pointing towards a slender victory on home soil tonight in their final farewell at the Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi.
With kickoff now a little over 10 minutes away, let us check out the pre-match thoughts from both camps heading into tonight's showdown.

Hans Backe: "I am extremely satisfied with my team morale. I told the players after the game that if in the future we are able to maintain such a level of desire we will be able to pull down anyone."

Antonio Conte: "This is our last game before Euro 2016 and clearly it's an important test. It's a way for us to check whether the work we've done these past two and a half weeks has sunk in. I need to have answers from some of my players who are recovering from injury too. There will be some changes, but not too many because we're getting closer to the European Championship and it's important that we find the right balance."

Backe suggesting there that he is indeed happy with the morale in the Finland camp, then, no doubt helped by that 1-1 draw with Belgium recently. Conte has all his attention on Belgium, too, with Italy set to lock horns with Europe's top-ranked since in a week's time in their opening Euro 2016 fixture. Republic of Ireland and Sweden are also in their group, so they cannot afford any real slip-up across those three games.
DID YOU KNOW? There has been an average of over 2.5 goals across Italy's last five games, of which they have won only one - a 1-0 victory over Scotland in Malta, secured thanks to Graziano Pelle's solitary goal. Italy have also shipped 10 goals during that time, making a mockery of what is a really strong defensive unit on the face of it, although Conte has been looking to experiment prior to the Euros.
It is at the other end of the field where Italy no longer look quite as strong. Gone are the days of Francesco Totti and Alessandro Del Piero running defences ragged; gone, too, is Mario Balotelli who was one of the star performers at the last European Championships when playing a key role in Italy's run to the final. Tonight it is over to Zaza and Immobile to prove their worth and potentially nail down a starting spot for the finals.
Incidentally, Italy's players will have a day off tomorrow before heading to their Montpellier base on Wednesday. Their opening fixture, against Group E rivals Belgium, is not until next Monday so they will have plenty of time to adjust to their surroundings. They will be without Claudio Marchisio and Marco Veratti, of course, both of whom picked up injuries to rule them out of the squad.
Both sets of players have now made their way out onto the field of play and we are currently going through the pre-match routine of the two sets of anthems. This is a chance for the XI Italy players on the field to prove their worth and make themselves undroppable ahead of the Euros, but Finland will have something to say about that in what should be a cat-and-mouse affair in Verona.

KICKOFF! Italy, sporting their traditional blue strip, get us underway in Verona. The Azzurri's Group E rivals got off to a flying start against Norway a little under 24 hours ago, so can the hosts make a similar start here to set the tempo?
Parolo flying into a challenge early on here - talk about setting the tone! All Italy so far, as they look to break down their opponents' five-man backline by knocking the ball from one flank to the other to no real avail so far.
Finland now taking their turn to knock the ball around, being closed down in midfield by a swarm of blue shirts. A pretty frenetic start to the match in Verona, but we can surely expect it to settle down into some sort of rhythm over the next few minutes.
CLOSE! The closest we have come to a goal so far, as the corner is worked well by Italy before a cross comes into the box for Zaza to glance narrowly wide of the far post. Not far wide at all with that attempt!
Things going the way as predicted pre-match now - Italy passing the ball from back to front and from left to right, but getting stuck in the final third when it comes to finding that one final killer pass through the stubborn Finland backline.
A real high intensity to Italy's play at the moment, which will please Conte following that largely abject showing against Scotland eight days ago. The Azzurri harrying their opponents at ever chance at the moment, giving them little chance to breath on the ball in midfield.
First we have really seen from Candreva, as he gets high up the right and swings in one of those dangerous shot-crosses that Hradecky is happy to keep hold of. Zaza's through-ball from the next move has too much on it and the Finnish stopper is quick on the ball.
SHOT! Zaza has got on the ball a fair bit over the past few minutes for Italy, with his first real attempt of the match dipping a fair bit but landing nicely for Hradecky to collect in an efficient enough manner.
Finland not really in any rush to get bodies forward over the past five minutes or so, with Italy now completely dominating possession. A sliced clearance almost caught out Hradecky horribly, but it the offside flag saved the visitors' blushes in the end.
A couple of stray passes let Italy down in their latest attacking wave. Just the one shot on goal so far and one near miss from a glanced header, both coming from striker Zaza who is desperate to make the most of his chance tonight.
CHANCE! Superb link-up play by Zaza and Immobile allows the latter to take on a shot from around eight yards out. He was being pulled back but the referee clearly did not see it, and the end shot ended wide of the target.
That Zaza-Immobile link-up offers so much promise of Conte and his side. It will be so tough to break Finland down this evening but they did exactly that a few moments ago, now they just have to take the chance when it arrives.
Giaccherini takes on a shot from range which is blasted high over the bar. Here is a closer look at that superb piece of play from Italy's front two a little earlier...

A rare Finland attack sees the visitors punt the ball over the top for Sirigu to easily pluck out of the air. Conte will be happy enough with the intensity of this match so far, but he will be hoping for more chances to be created before the interval.
Giaccherini crosses into the box from the left, with the ball making its way to Candreva who puts his foot through it 18 yards out. The ball bounced around the box but did not find the target in another minor let-off for the visitors.
Antonio Candreva works his way into the box from the right, where he is clearly clipped by Perparim Hetemaj to earn his side a penalty. The Lazio man dusted himself off and sent the Finland keeper the wrong way to put his side into a deserved lead just short of the half-hour mark.
Giaccherini gets past his man and picks out a cross, which is cleared away towards the front post. The Azzurri win a succession of corners which ultimately come to nothing, so their lead remains at just the one goal for now.
A shot from Zaza is blocked aside from range. Italy well on top now and doing enough at the moment, but they would like a second sooner rather than later to put the game out of Finland's reach for good. The Scandinavian outfit do not tend to score too many, remember.
Things have quietened down a little over the past few minutes, but Finland still doing very little in an attacking sense. Unlike with Italy's Group E rivals Belgium yesterday, the visiting side are just letting their opponents attack at will so far.
Italy racking up the attempt on goal, which I have down as eight so far - the latest coming from El Shaarawy - but Hradecky has only really been tested once. He was also put the wrong way by Candreva for the game's only goal thus far.
So plenty of positives for Conte so far, then, as we enter the final five minutes of the half, yet there is still plenty to be done. More chances for one - just too many shots-to-nothing from range at the moment to truly trouble the visiting side.
Plenty of set-pieces being won by the Azzurri, but in truth they have all come to nothing so far. Another routine for Conte to work on over the next, week, perhaps, with a week to go before facing Belgium in their Group E opener in France.
Italy not done a great deal since going ahead; not done a great deal all half in terms of creating chances, in truth. No denying that they are the better side, but they just need to make this dominance count by breaking their openings down.
The referee blows his whistle for half time, meaning Italy take a well deserved lead into the interval. Finland have not had a single shot on target so far - they have not had an attack of any sort, in fact. A simple evening for the Azzurri backline, then, while further forward it has been a pretty mixed bag in the opening 45 minutes.
They have well and truly dominated possession, but in terms of chances they have been kept to a bare minimum. Zaza had one shot easily kept out by Hradecky, while strike partner Immobile was wayward with his only real chance of the match after some nice link-up play. The closest Zaza came to finding a way through was six minutes in when glancing narrowly wide of the target.
Italy did make a breakthrough shortly before the half-hour mark, however, as Antonio Candreva was clipped inside the box and brushed himself down to send Hradecky the wrong way from the spot. The Azzurri should now push on, with the aid of a few substitutions in the second half, and win the game comfortably. Finland, on the other hand, simply need to offer something. Anything!

ITALY SUBS: Buffon, Eder, Bernardeschi, Darmian, De Rossi, De Sciglio, Florenzi, Insigne, Marchetti, Ogbonna, Pelle, Stuaro

FINLAND SUBS: Jalasto, Joronen, Kauko, Lam, Lod, Maenppa, Moren, Ojala, Pukki, Raitala, Saksela, Vayrnyen

Antonio Candreva, pictured here in action against Scotland last weekend, scored the only goal of the first half 27 minutes in. Plain sailing for the Azzurri so far, but just that one goal to show for their efforts.

RESTART! Finland get us back underway in Verona, looking to make more of an impression than witnessed in the opening 45 minutes. Simply not good enough for the visitors, who somehow held second-in-the-world Belgium to a 1-1 draw last time out.
Now that things have settled down a little let me bring you up to speed with a half-time change: Pukki has been taken off for Finland, with Lod the man on in his place for this second half. Conte likely to make a raft of changes around the hour mark.
The message from Conte at the interval would have been clear: Get a second goal and put this game out of reach. A stroll for his defensive players so far, but his attackers need to do more to find a way through for a second time.
A real dangerous cross from Candreva on the right, who is having a really good game so far. Immobile could not quite connect with the diving header just a few yards out, with the ball running straight through the box without a touch.
The theme of this game has continued right from the opening minutes; Italy doing all the attacking work but just faltering when it comes to putting the ball in the back of the net. Conte must surely be thinking about a change or two with nearly an hour now played.
Signs that Italy are perhaps starting to become a little tired as the tempo drops a tad. Finland now with nine outfield players across the edge of their box - an incredibly tricky job for the hosts to break them down.
A very quiet second half so far, much like the first in terms of clear-cut chances. Conte still yet to make any alterations, despite having a raft of players available to choose from with around 30 minutes now left to play.
Italy had to grind out plenty of wins during qualifying, but they surely would have been hoping for a more straightforward win tonight. As Conte predicted, though, it is turning into a game of cat-and-mouse with still just the one goal in it.
Well here is a rare sight - Finland getting more than a couple of players in the opposition's attacking third of the pitch! Sparv's final ball is cut out, however, and the move comes to an end on the edge of the Italy box.
ITALY SUBS! De Rossi and Sturaro are on for Thiago Motta and Giaccherini. This is actually Stuaro's senior debut for the Azzurri, so a big moment for him at the Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi.
CHANCE! Nice ball over the top from De Rossi comes to little in the end, but already he is proving his value in this side. El Shaarawy was then played through by the incoming midfielder but a strong challenge came in to deny him a clean strike on goal.
De Rossi has been very good since coming on, providing his side with a different angle of attack. Italy really turning the screw now in search of that second goal to make sure of the win in this final pre-Euros friendly.
Italy finally have their second goal of the evening, and it comes from the man who has looked a class above since being introduced a short while ago. Candreva, the scorer of the first goal, swung in a cross for De Rossi to nod home - a goal that will delight Conte due to the way his side finally opened up the visitors.
SUBS! Lam is now on for Ring, in what is Finland's third change of the evening. Italy have made four changes, meanwhile, the latest of which saw Fiorentina winger Bernardeschi come on for Candreva - arguably the game's star man.
Both Italy full-backs have been changed now, but it is still a 3-5-2 formation for the hosts. Zaza just had his best chance of the match, but Hradecky closed the angle and was able to deny the Italy striker with a good stop down low.
Zaza really needed to take one of his two chances so far this evening. Pelle will not lose too much sleep, and he could well get the nod from Conte to start that match against Belgium next week in the opening Group E clash.
Graziano Pelle, pictured here with the injured Claudio Marchisio, is readying himself to come on for the closing stages of this match. Zaza the man most likely to make way, having failed to truly make an impact so far tonight.

ITALY SUB! Pelle is indeed the latest player to be introduced for the hosts, coming on for Zaza with less than 10 minutes left to play. Finland coming out of their shell now more, which is ultimately too little too late.
Italy pressing really well to win the ball back from their opponents, before again taking control of things. Still time for a third goal, but Parolo flicks his attempt well wide when picked out in a central position.
ITALY SUB! Ogbonna is now on for Italy in the dying stages of the match - I'm not expecting any added time due to the fact that it is a one-sided friendly - replacing Bonucci in the heart of defence. A case of certain players keeping up their fitness now.
A good run-out for Conte's side, then, but they will face different challengers altogether once the real thing gets underway next week. Belgium, Republic of Ireland and Sweden will certainly not be as defensive of this, of course, so expect chances to be easier to come by.
Finland still yet to have a single shot of any note, so no chance for Sirigu to prove himself in place of Buffon. Conte's final match as Italy manager on home soil now just seconds away from ending on a winning note.
The referee signals for full time, ensuring that Italy will head to France later this week with back-to-back wins under their belts. They toiled for large parts in Verona, being made to work hard before eventually breaking down their opponents in either half to earn a 2-0 victory.
Well that concludes Sports Mole's live text coverage of events in this international friendly meeting, but be sure to join us at the same time tomorrow as we being you the lowdown on Spain's final outing before themselves heading to France for the European Championship finals. See you then!
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