Friday night’s international meeting between Italy and Bulgaria evokes memories of the one and only previous World Cup qualification encounter contested by both sides in 2009.
With the stakes high as the reigning World Champions aimed to earn their right to defend their crown in South Africa, Turin’s Stadio Olimpico, the Bianconeri’s home at the time, played host to a game distinguished by a healthy black and white presence in the starting line-up.
On Wednesday 9 September, former Juventus supremo Marcello Lippi selected the following seven Bianconeri in his starting XI: Gigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Giorgio Chiellini, Fabio Grosso, Mauro Camoranesi, Claudio Marchisio and Vincenzo Iaquinta.
Roared on by a 26,000-strong crowd, Italy made an electric start to proceedings and found themselves a goal to the good after just 11 minutes played.
Grosso played a neat one-two with Andrea Pirlo, and saw his lightning burst into the box pay dividends when he smashed an unstoppable volley past Dimitar Ivankov.
The full-back also had a hand in the second goal, seeking out Iaquinta who cleverly let the ball run through to strike partner Alberto Gilardino. The pair then exchanged quick passes before Iaquinta rounded off a slick move by finishing with aplomb.
The final 2-0 scoreline all but guaranteed Italy’s safe passage into the summer finals. They would eventually top the group after holding nearest contenders Republic of Ireland to a draw in Dublin before beating Cyprus at Parma’s Ennio Tardini.