Trapattoni satisfied as Italy draw with Turkey
Italy drew 1-1 with Turkey in an international friendly on Wednesday as Christian Vieri struck seven minutes before halftime for the home side to cancel out a goal by his Inter Milan team mate Belozoglu Emre.
The result was inconclusive for coach Giovanni Trapattoni, who has been under fire after Italy's disappointing performances in their European qualifying campaign.
Emre's long-range strike just before the half-hour mark to open the scoring capped an early period of excellent play by the visitors, who gave Italy's midfield the runaround with their neat passing game.
But Italy reacted quickly, Vieri rounding goalkeeper Omer Catkic to slide the ball in for the equaliser after 38 minutes.
Two minutes from time Filippo Inzaghi had a golden chance to win the game for Italy, going one-on-one with Omer, but his shot went wide of the post to end an inconclusive night for the azzurri and their embattled coach Trapattoni.
The match was a chance for both teams to fine-tune their squads as they battle for a place in Euro 2004 with Turkey leading Group Seven ahead of England, but Italy trailing both Wales and Yugoslavia in Group Nine.
Wales beat Azerbaijan 2-0 on Wednesday to stretch their lead at the top to five points and put the pressure on the Italians, who were stunned 2-1 by the Welsh in Cardiff last month.
Although the Italians were held on Wednesday by Turkey, who were impressive in finishing third at this year's World Cup, Trapattoni declared himself satisfied with the performance.
"In the first half we played well," he said. "We conceded a goal on the counter-attack, but we got back into it with Vieri.
"In the second half we wilted a bit, but we still had chances and could have won the game.
"I saw a satisfying Italy out there tonight, also on an individual level. Compliments to the new lads.
"Above all today was a friendly," he continued. "Unlike us Turkey had a full squad -- a squad that finished third at the World Cup and that played to win. We can develop from here".
Several high-profile absences, including defender Alessandro Nesta and playmaker Francesco Totti, forced Trapattoni to start with four uncapped players -- defender Alessandro Birindelli and midfielders Carlo Nervo, Simone Perrotta and Antonio Di Natale.
Nervo and Di Natale, playing on the flanks, were among the most impressive players on the pitch in the opening 15 minutes.
In the 12th minute Di Natale shook off defender Ergun Penbe and played the ball across the front of the area but Nervo's weak shot was easily gathered by Omer.
Yet as the game progressed Turkey's confidence grew and Italy found themselves increasingly pushed into their own half.
Particularly impressive was the quality of the passing between the visitors' midfield and attack.
Time and again the Italian players were left flatfooted, looking for the ball as the Turks switched the play fluently between Emre Belozoglu and Tugay Kerimoglu in midfield and Yildiray Basturk in attack.
They got their reward in the 28th minute as a mistake by Italian midfielder Luigi Di Biagio left Emre with both the ball and the space to exploit it.
Emre advanced, the Italian defence backed off and he rifled a shot into the top left hand corner of Gianluigi Buffon's goal. It was no less than they deserved.
Their lead was short-lived, however, as Italy struck back in the 38th minute through Vieri, who ran round the goalkeeper and slid the ball home after a neat pass by Nervo.
Trapattoni made several substitutions at the interval, probably with half an eye on the big Serie A games this weekend including the Milan derby and Juventus versus Bologna.
Milan players Inzaghi and Massimo Ambrosini replaced Inter's Vieri and Di Biagio, while Inter's Francesco Toldo came on for Buffon in goal.
It made little difference to the balance of the match, which seemed to lose a little of the pace and clarity of the first half.
Turkey had come close to breaking the deadlock in the 27th minute when a perfectly-curved long pass by Cihan Haspolatli found Ilhan Mansiz 10 metres out but his volley went wide.
Less than a minute later Italy's Marco Di Vaio -- who had replaced Alessandro Del Piero in attack -- came even closer, controlling the ball just outside the area and dribbling past the defence but then blasting his shot over the bar.
Not the perfect result, then, for Trapattoni, who must have been hoping to answer his critics with a win.