Roberto Donadoni’s decision to rearrange his team was vindicated when Italy won 2-1 in Ukraine in their Euro 2008 qualifier to move into second in Group B.
The Italian coach was under pressure after the world champions lost 3-1 to Hungary in a friendly last month and drew 0-0 with group rivals France on Saturday.
Juventus striker Alessandro Del Piero, fellow World Cup winner Daniele De Rossi and Milan striker Filippo Inzaghi were all dropped as Donadoni brought in Udinese striker Antonio Di Natale, Juve forward Vincenzo Iaquinta and Milan midfielder Massimo Ambrosini.
The coach also selected veteran full-back Christian Panucci in place of Massimo Oddo and stuck by inexperienced Palermo centre back Andrea Barzagli.
The changes paid off with two goals by Di Natale and an assist by Ambrosini.
“Ale (Del Piero) had tired a lot against France and I needed fresh legs. Unfortunately on such occasions and with this type of game it is necessary to take painful decisions,” Donadoni told www.gazzetta.it.
Di Natale, who has 12 caps, was especially thrilled with his header for the first goal.
“When I saw the ball in the net I said, “Me with my head? Absurd,” Di Natale said afetrwards.
“Then I understood that it was a special night.”