Italy beats Georgia 2-0 in World Cup qualifier


UDINE, Italy (AP) - Italy is starting to look like the team that won the World Cup two years ago.

Daniele De Rossi scored twice for Italy to beat Georgia 2-0 in a World Cup qualifier on Wednesday and lead its European group after two games.

De Rossi scored from 25 meters in the 17th minute at Friuli Stadium, sending his shot into the upper corner of the net and out of reach of Georgia goalkeeper Giorgi Loria.

The AS Roma midfielder scored again in the 88th on a low shot from inside the box."It's great to win when you're struggling,'' Italy coach Marcello Lippi said.

"In a month we'll be back in better condition.''

After a disappointing 2-1 win against Cyprus over the weekend, Lippi proposed that Italy's Serie A begin earlier so the players can be in better shape for international play. Serie A has played one round while some European leagues started a month ago.

"It's clear that our form is improving,'' said Italy 'keeper Gianluigi Buffon.

Midfielder Mauro Camoranesi said he was still not in form to be able to play two games in the span of a few days. Though those comments have been echoed by other players, not many are ready for an earlier start to the season.

"Football players have to rest every once in a while,'' said defender Nicola Legrottaglie.

"If we start the season earlier then we will have to have a longer rest over Christmas.''

Italy, which next plays at Bulgaria on Oct. 11, has won its last 11 home World Cup qualifiers and has 36 victories and four draws overall at home.

Italy controlled the match against Georgia from start to finish, but was unable to convert the chances it created until De Rossi's second goal with two minutes left.

Referring to his first goal on the shot from far outside the area, De Rossi said: "When I get the ball in that position I usually take a look around, and I figured I might as well try. We played a good game and should be happy with the result though we can still improve.''

He dedicated his two goals to his father-in-law, who was killed last month.

The Georgian defense, anchored by AC Milan's Kakha Kaladze, stymied Italy's preferred approach, which was long crosses that sought striker Luca Toni.

Kaladze wore a black armband to remember the victims in his country's recent war with Russia.

Antonio Di Natale, playing in front of his home fans, failed to find the back of the net after scoring Italy's two goals in the first World Cup qualifier against Cyprus.

His best chance before being substituted early in the second half came in the 15th when his shot deflected off a Georgia defender and rolled just wide of the net.

Georgia came close to scoring in the 25th when Levan Mchedlidze fed Levan Kenia a perfect low cross that beat the defense, but Kenia bumbled the kick from just a few meters from the goal.

In the 80th, Buffon had to come out of the box to make a sliding kick that cleared the ball from a charging Levan Kobiashvili.

Though Italy had to contend with injuries that thinned its midfield and backline, its defense, traditionally a strong point, played better than against Cyprus.

"If we consider all the injuries we've had, to come out with two positive results is pretty good,'' Lippi said.

Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro improved in central defense after a mediocre game against Cyprus. He is recently back from an injury that caused him to miss the European Championship.

Gianluca Zambrotta also returned in defense and was joined by Andrea Dossena and Legrottaglie, who did not play against Cyprus.

"We controlled the game and they had only one good ball in the first half and that was it,'' Italy midfielder Mauro Camoranesi said.

"We got lucky against Cyprus. We would have been lucky to just get a draw in that game, but we deserved to win this game.''

Italy and Georgia have met seven times in World Cup and European Championship qualifying matches dating to 1996, with Italy winning six times.

The teams drew once in Georgia.

In its last 12 World Cup qualifiers, Georgia has one win, three draws and eight loses.

After two matches in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Italy leads Group 8 with six points.

Lineups:

Italy: Gianluigi Buffon, Gianluca Zambrotta, Andrea Dossena, Nicola Legrottaglie, Fabio Cannavaro, Daniele De Rossi, Antonio Di Natale (Alessandro Del Piero, 55), Alberto Aquilani, Luca Toni (Vincenzo Iaquinta, 60), Andrea Pirlo (Angelo Palombo, 46), Mauro Camoranesi.

Georgia: Giorgi Loria, Ucha Lobjanidze, Lasha Salukvadze, Kakha Kaladze, Zaal Eliava (David Kvirkvelia, 46), Levan Khmaladze, Zurab Menteshashvili (David Odikadze, 58), Levan Kobiashvili, Levan Kenia, Aleksandre Iashvili, Levan Mchedlidze (David Siradze, 54).

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