Bulgaria Vs. Italy, 2014 World Cup Qualifying: Final Score 2-2 As Azzurri Start Slow

Generally, a road draw early in qualifying wouldn't be much of a concern for Italy, but considering the nature of their group, it's a tough pill to swallow. The Azzurri were not at their best against Bulgaria, but held a lead for a good chunk of the match. They almost stole three points, but Bulgaria scored a deserved equalizer, and the Italians had to settle for a 2-2 draw.

Stanislav Manolev netted Bulgaria's winner with a great long-range strike in the 30th minute, though Gianluigi Buffon should have done much more to keep it out of the net. The shot took an early hop that threw Buffon off, and he whiffed at the ball before it bounced into the net.

Italy fought back through Pablo Osvaldo, who netted twice in the in the first half to send the Azzurri into the locker room with a lead. He took advantage of poor marking following a set piece with his close-range finish in the 36th minute, then headed in a cross by Emmanuele Giaccherini for his second goal in the 40th minute.

The second half was an even affair, with some chances on both sides. Bulgaria looked lively throughout the half and Italy were forced to depend on Buffon to keep them ahead on multiple occasions. Eventually, after a decent volume of surges forward, the home side found their equalizer in the 66th minute. Georgi Milanov took advantage of some terrible marking by Angelo Ogbonna and scored from close-range on a set piece to tie the score.

Italy had a couple of half-chances in the final minutes, but never looked like taking the lead again. Bulgaria come away with a well-earned point, and possibly renewed confidence that they can compete for a playoff spot. Italy and Bulgaria's loaded Group B also features Denmark, the Czech Republic, and a very decent Armenia side.

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