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November 4, 2009
Italy ousts U.S. from U-17 World Cup, 2-1

KADUNA, Nigeria -- The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team was eliminated from the FIFA U-17 World Cup as it lost to Italy Wednesday.

Italy opened the scoring in the 28th minute with a strike from Giacomo Beretta after a missed penalty by Jack McInerney in the 16th minute. The second half saw the U.S. draw level after Nick Palodichuk converted a Luis Gil corner, but Pietro Iemello’s strike from the top of the box in the 56th minute proved to be the winner.

The U.S., which finished with a 2-2-0 record, recorded two shutouts. Coach Wilmer Cabrera used all 18 field players during the course of the tournament.

“We created a lot of chances, we had more possession tonight than against any other team that we played, but we couldn’t find a way to finish our chances,” Cabrera said. “So, now we have to leave the tournament and I leave the tournament proud of my kids because they respect the game every time.”

Italian defender Frederico Mannini, who picked up a yellow card in the sixth minute, found hismelf under the microscope in the 16th minute when a seemingly innocuous throw-in for the Italians deep in their own half bounced up and struck the defender’s slightly outstretched arm. Paraguayan referee Carlos Amarilla had no choice to point the spot as Mannini was standing two yards inside his own penalty area.

With a chance to give the U.S. an early lead, McInerney stepped up to the spot, but his shot was saved by Bardi who dove correctly to his right. The missed opportunity seemed to take a bit out of the young Americans, as Italy seized the chance to take back control of the match.

After a pair of half chances from the two Italian frontrunners, the Azzurri found their breakthrough on the foot of Giacomo Beretta. Goalkeeper Francesco Bardi sent a 28th minute goal kick down the middle of the pitch where Iemello rose to flick the ball backwards toward goal. The ball skipped through to Beretta who successfully held off U.S. captain Jared Watts and clipped home a shot that eluded the onrushing Earl Edwards in the U.S. goal.

It was a quick strike that stunned the U.S. men, who had not given up a goal since the 30th minute of their opener against Spain.

Coming back onto the pitch for the second half, Cabrera’s men looked to reenact their lively start to first period. Jerome, again, was the protagonist in the 47th minute as he ran at the Italian defense from the right side. After beating two men, defender Felice Natalino intervened at the top of the area. As he and Jerome came together, the ball popped out to an unmarked McInerney fifteen yards from goal. His hard-struck shot was redirected onto the crossbar by the fingertips of Bardi, who once again denied McInerney of a gilt-edged chance.

In the 50th minute, Bardi was penalized for holding the ball longer than the allotted six seconds given to goalkeepers. Amarilla whistled the infraction and awarded an indirect free kick to the U.S. 17 yards from goal. McInerney stepped up to take the shot but his effort was blocked by a defender and eventually scrambled out for a corner kick.

The corner kick in the 51st minute saw the Americans equalized as Palodichuk jumped to meet Gil’s cross at the six-yard box and glanced a downward header into the side netting at the far post. It was the first goal of the tournament for the midfielder and the second given up by Italy.

Buoyed by the goal and looking for a second, the U.S. looked to take control of the proceedings. McInerney and Shinsky manufactured a half chance by combining on the left side, but the Azzurri would need only five minutes to regain the lead from a vintage Italian counter attack.

After gaining possession in midfield, the Italian defense found Beretta on the right in front of defender Tyler Polak. Beretta looked up to find Iemello cutting in from the left wing. The midfielder received the ball in stride and continued into the center of the pitch in between the U.S. center backs and beat Edwards from 18 yards.

The Italians slowed down the pace of the game and made things difficult for the U.S. in the midfield – not letting them build an attack and harrying them in possession.

In the waning moments of stoppage time, Eriq Zavaleta earned a red card for impeding Natalino, who looked to break down the right flank and behind the defense. McInerney was booked in subsequent discussion with the referee but the cards would have no effect on the play on the pitch as the referee blew his whistle for full time right after the restart.

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