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Italy 2-0 Ghana
Monday, 12 June 2006

Andrea Pirlo
Pirlo pulled the strings for Italy and was named man of the match
Italy got their World Cup campaign off to a winning start with a deserved victory over Ghana in Hanover.

Andrea Pirlo opened the scoring with a rasping long-range drive in the first half and substitute Vincenzo Iaquinta extended the advantage near the end.

World Cup debutants Ghana played their part in an entertaining match and defender Emmanuel Pappoe wasted their best chance before the interval.

But Italy, prompted by the superb Pirlo, were more clinical throughout.

Luca Toni, the winner of last season's Golden Boot after scoring 31 goals for Fiorentina, led the line well for them and could potentially be a star of the tournament.

After 27 minutes he almost scored with a superb piece of individual skill.

The 29-year-old controlled an Alberto Gilardino flick-on before unleashing a venomous volley that thumped the crossbar and bounced down in front of the line.

Ghana, prompted by their confident captain Stephen Appiah, also threatened.

Pappoe wasted a great chance when he blazed over from 14 yards after finding himself unmarked inside the area.

Pirlo punished this profligacy by giving Italy the lead after 40 minutes.

The AC Milan midfielder, who pulls the strings for Italy with his clever movement and perceptive passing, scored from 35 yards out after being picked out by Francesco Totti from a left-sided corner.

Ghana were the better side after the interval as they pushed forward in search of an equaliser.

But the Italians, marshalled by captain Fabio Cannavaro in central defence, held firm and threatened on the counter-attack.

Simone Perotta was played in by Daniele Di Rossi after 67 minutes but shot too close to Richard Kingston.

Substitute Iaquinta put the result beyond doubt when he scored seven minutes from the end.

Pirlo was again the instigator, intercepting a pass deep inside his own half before playing the ball forward.

Samuel Kuffour underhit a backpass and Udinese's Iaquinta capitalised to round the keeper before sliding the ball into an empty net.

Italy: Buffon, Zaccardo, Nesta, Cannavaro, Grosso, Totti (Camoranesi 56), Perrotta, Pirlo, De Rossi, Toni (Del Piero 82), Gilardino (Iaquinta 64).
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