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Panucci ends Scotland's fitba dream
by Paul Kennedy, November 19th, 2007 7AM

TAGS:  european championship, italy


[SCOTLAND-ITALY] They call it the Hampden Roar.

In the old days, when the capacity of Glasgow's Hampden Park exceeded 100,000, it was said the roar of the crowd could be heard for miles. The capacity of Hampden has been cut to a more modest 52,000, but the Hampden Roar was supposed to be Scotland's home-field advantage when it took the field Saturday night in its decisive Euro '08 qualifier against Italy.

Before the game, Scotland's Tartan Army was in rare form, signing to the music of the Proclaimers, but the Hampden Roar terrified Italy's mighty Azzurri for all of 68 seconds, the time it took for Luca Toni to score for Italy.

Scotland put up a brave fight, equalizing on Scotland captain Barry Ferguson's goal in the 65th minute, but a tie would have probably only delayed in the inevitable.

Scotland needed to beat Italy to qualify for Euro '08, and its fitba dream was extinguished when Christian Panucci scored in stoppage time to give Italy a 2-1 victory.

While fan violence has wrecked havoc on Italian soccer, Italy coach Roberto Donadini saluted the Scottish fans.

"The Scottish fans showed how to behave and get behind a team in a stadium," Donadoni said. "Their correctness on and off the pitch has given us all something we can learn from."

Scotland was unfortunate to have several key calls go against it. There was a penalty not called on Gianluca Zambrotta for a handball in the first half and the very iffy foul called on Alan Hutton that led to Andrea Pirlo's free kick that Panucci headed home for the winner.

Scotland coach Alex McLeish said the call on Hutton's foul "defies belief," but the fact of the matter was that a tie wouldn't have helped the Scots that much. The Italy win also sent France -- a team Scotland had beaten twice -- into the finals. A Scotland-Italy tie would have meant the Scots could have still qualified only if France lost at Ukraine on Wednesday

As for Italy, the 2006 World Cup champion, it had gotten off to a slow start under Donadoni but pulled together to avoid the fate of Italy's 1982 World Cup team that failed to qualify for the European Championship two years later.

"This team can go head-to-head with any team and has nothing it need be afraid of," Donadoni, the former MetroStars player, said. "I'm learning from every game and from this group of players."

The Azzurri all wore black armbands in memory of 26-year-old Lazio fan Gabriele Sandri, who was killed by a police officer.

"It is our duty to dedicate the victory to Gabriele Sandri," said Toni.

Nov. 17 in Glasgow
Scotland 1 Italy 2. Goals: Ferguson 65; Toni 2, Panucci 90.
Scotland -- Gordon, Hutton, Weir, McManus, Naysmith, Hartley, Brown (Miller, 74), Fletcher, Ferguson, McCulloch, McFadden
Italy -- Buffon, Panucci, Cannavaro, Barzagli, Zambrotta, Gattuso (Di Rossi, 86), Pirlo, Ambrosini, Camoranesi (Chiellini, 83), Toni, Di Natale (Iaqunita, 68)
Referee: Manuel Gonzalez (Spain).

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