FABIO Quagliarella (pictured, AFP) became the oldest ever player to score for Italy as the 36-year-old converted two penalties in a crushing 6-0 Euro 2020 qualifying win by the Azzurri over Liechtenstein on Tuesday.
Italy top Group J with six points after also beating Finland 2-0 in Udine on Saturday with goals from youngsters Nicolo Barella, 22, and 19-year-old Moise Kean.
Bosnia threw away a two-goal lead to draw 2-2 with Greece and both are behind Italy on four points followed by Finland on three.
Serie A top scorer Quagliarella has earned his recall to Roberto Mancini’s new-look Italy thanks to his 21 goals in 28 league games, two more than Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo has managed for Juventus.
And he marked his return for the Azzurri after nearly nine years by converting a penalty on 35 minutes, adding a second, also from the spot, just before the break.
The Sampdoria player becomes the oldest player ever to score for Italy aged 36 years and 54 days, overtaking Christian Panucci, who scored aged 35 years in 2008.
“It’s a wonderful evening,” said Quagliarella.
“I want to thank my teammates. After the two goals they encouraged me to get a third one too, but it didn’t happen.
“I thank Jorginho and [Leonardo] Bonucci because they’re the penalty takers and they told me to kick. They said: ‘The evening is yours, you kick it’.”
Mancini made seven changes to the side that beat Finland with defender Cristiano Piccini and forward Stephan El Shaarawy injured.
Stefano Sensi and Quagliarella stepped in for Barella and Ciro Immobile, alongside Kean who was given his second Italy start.
Quagliarella received a standing ovation as he left the Stadio Tardini pitch.
“This standing ovation is a memory I will always cherish,” said Quagliarella.
“I also thank Mancini who gave me this opportunity.”
Italy – European champions in 1968 and runners-up in 2000 and 2012 – kept their unbeaten run in qualifiers going back nearly 13 years.
“Mission accomplished,” said Mancini. “The result was obvious, but it was important that we score goals.”