Italy worry about facist fans at Sofia draw

October 12, 2008

MILAN, Oct 12 (Reuters) - Holders Italy were reasonably happy with Saturday's 0-0 draw against Bulgaria in World Cup qualifying Group Eight but were less pleased by some minor crowd trouble in Sofia.

With very few chances in the game, Italian media focused on a group of away fans who threw bottles at Bulgarian supporters and made fascist salutes and chants.

Italy has been battling a soccer hooligan problem in recent years while there have been tensions with eastern European immigrants throughout the country.

"The fans need to be punished," Italian soccer federation president Giancarlo Abete told Rai television. "Tickets were sold with names on them so we can trace every single person."

Diplomatic officials said three Italian fans had been detained in Sofia for burning a Bulgarian flag.

On the field, debutant Simone Pepe had an average game while fellow striker Giuseppe Rossi, who came on as a substitute for his first cap, was more involved and could be pushing for a start in Wednesday's home match against Montenegro in Lecce.

Bayern Munich forward Luca Toni will be missing through suspension after picking up a booking in Sofia and has been replaced in the squad by frontman Fabio Quagliarella, his club side Udinese said in a statement.

Struggling Toni would probably not have started in Lecce anyway after making another uninspired appearance as a substitute against Bulgaria with the lively Alberto Gilardino beginning the game ahead of him.

"I'm satisfied with the way we played," Italy coach Marcello Lippi told reporters. "We didn't create many chances but we also didn't allow the Bulgarians to score. This team is growing in experience after every single match."

Italy top Group Eight with seven points from three games.