It was the match Cesare Prandelli hoped would give him answers, the game with which he could experiment, the test to see who should be included in his final 23-man squad. Seven million tuned in to see how Italy would fare against the Republic of Ireland. The Craven Cottage challenge may have provided the necessary answers but those answers came at the cost of Riccardo Montolivo, the captain on the night.
Injured very early in the game, the Milan midfielder realised immediately that his fall was a serious one, mouthing the words "it's broken" to the Italy staff. Rushed off to hospital, his fears were confirmed; Montolivo will not be travelling to Brazil for the World Cup.
His clear anguish and the realisation that it takes only a moment for a dream to die somewhat shocked his teammates, who struggled to compose themselves and keep to the game plan.
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