Of all the Italian players in the new jerseys, the standout was the kid from New Jersey.
Teaneck-born Giuseppe Rossi scored twice in the second half, Daniele De Rossi had a goal and Italy rallied to overcome a Landon Donovan penalty kick and beat the United States, 3-1, last night in its opener at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Pretoria, South Africa.
"I dedicate the goals to my family, who are watching the game on TV in America," Rossi said. "This is a dream, I'm playing for the world champions, and I also hope to become a world champion next year."
The U.S. played a man short after Ricardo Clark was ejected in the 33rd minute for a late tackle on Gennaro Gattuso, but went ahead 8 minutes later when Donovan scored his American-record 40th international goal after Giorgio Chiellini hooked and kicked Jozy Altidore.
Italy, 4-0-3 against the United States, wore new light blue retro jerseys and brown shorts that hark back to the Azzurri's first two World Cup titles in 1934 and 1938.
Rossi grew up in Clifton, but spurned the U.S. national team program to play for Italy. He entered in the 57th minute and tied the score a minute later with a 30-yard shot after stripping the ball from Benny Feilhaber.
"If you're playing against the team which is the country where you are born, it's always a great emotion coming in," Rossi said.
He got his second goal in the fourth minute of injury time from about 10 yards after Andrea Pirlo went around defender Jay DeMerit and crossed.
"Certainly it would have been our hope that Giuseppe played for the U.S., but he made his decision and he's a very talented player, and today was a very exciting day for him," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said.
The 22-year-old Rossi scored four goals at last summer's Olympics. He made his debut with the senior Italian national team last October as a substitute against Bulgaria and scored his first international goal on June 6.
"Rossi gave us a burst of energy," Italy coach Marcello Lippi said. "He scored a great goal that calmed us down psychologically with a half hour still to go, and then he finished the game off."
Rossi put Italy ahead 2-1 in the 72nd minute with a 15-yard shot that bounced by defender Oguchi Onyewu and beat goalkeeper Tim Howard.
Bradley and his players were unhappy with Chilean referee Pablo Pozo's decision to give the red card to Clark, saying the foul should have been merely a yellow card.
"The red card made all the difference," Donovan said. "Eleven guys from each team were prepared and ready to play the game, and the guy in the middle with the whistle wasn't."
In yesterday's other game, Brazil beat Egypt, 4-3, on a disputed 90th-minute penalty kick by Kaka, his second goal of the match. *