Italy dash Ghana's debut dream
The Italians struck once in each half to wipe out the African first-timers 2-0. Schedule | Teams | Interviews | Photosindia Updated: Jun 13, 2006 04:40 IST
Italy began their World Cup campaign with a solid 2-0 victory over Ghana on Monday.
Andrea Pirlo's rasping 40th-minute drive put Italy ahead before substitute Vincenzo Iaquinta settled an intriguing Group E contest of contrasting styles with a breakaway goal seven minutes from the end.
Italy twice hit the woodwork in the first half and Ghana keeper Richard Kingston made a series of excellent saves to keep the four-time African champions in the game before Iaquinta struck.
Question marks have been raised about Italy's ability to cope with the distraction of the Serie A match-fixing scandal that is rumbling on back in the peninsula. But despite several scares, the Azzurri never looked like ending up with anything less than three priceless points.
Most neutrals were rooting for Ghana, hoping to see one of world football's aristocrats embarrassed by the African underdogs, appearing at their first World Cup. But too often the Black Stars lost their composure in front of goal after creating good openings, and in the end Italy's class told.
Kingston, preferred to Sammy Adjei in Ghana's goal, came to their rescue in the 12th minute, smothering a shot from Alberto Gilardino before seeing the ball hit the outside of the post.
After Sulley Muntari's drive had whistled over the bar, Italy were once again denied by the woodwork. Gilardino's flick released Luca Toni whose fierce right-footed shot thumped the underside of the bar.
Asamoah Gyan and Michael Essien both sent shots into the stands for Ghana after promising runs before the Africans missed a golden chance. A defensive clearance found its way to Emmanuel Pappoe with plenty of time to line up his shot, but rather than hit the target he sliced his effort wide.
Italy finally made the breakthrough five minutes before half-time. Totti tapped a corner short to Pirlo, whose right-footed drive from just outside the box flew into the bottom corner.
Pirlo's effort would not have gone in had his quick-thinking team-mate Gilardino not ducked out of the way of the goalbound shot. Fabio Grosso came close to putting Italy further ahead just before the break, but Kingston was equal to his angled strike.
Kingston produced another vital save to deny Gilardino shortly after the break, before Buffon was called upon to make his first intervention, diving at full stretch to palm away Essien's shot.
Totti went off injured after picking up a knock on the same ankle that he broke back in February, before Ghana's backline was brutally exposed in the 83rd minute.
Pirlo released Iaquinta, who was beaten to the ball by Sammy Kuffour, but the Roma defender's attempted backpass was woefully short. Iaquinta took full advantage of the error, rounding Kingston before slotting the ball into an unguarded net.