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FOOTBALL

Italy open tournament with victory

story.pirlo.jpg
Pirlo celebrates his goal as Italy begin their tournament in style.

SPECIAL REPORT

HANOVER, Germany -- Goals from Andrea Pirlo and Vincenzo Iaquinta gave Italy a 2-0 victory over Ghana in an entertaining World Cup Group E match.

Midfielder Pirlo's 40th-minute goal came after Ghana, looking sharp in their approach play, had wasted two good chances to take the lead.

Italy rarely looked in danger after the break and substitute Iaquinta, who had been off the field receiving attention on an injury a few minutes earlier, secured victory in the 83rd minute.

The striker raced clean through after picking up a poor back pass from Samuel Kuffour and rounded goalkeeper Richard Kingston before slotting the ball into an empty net.

"Our opponents showed themselves to be as strong as we thought they would be," said Italy coach Marcello Lippi. "In certain aspects they were better than us.

"But I think overall we deserved to win. From a psychological point of view the first match is always difficult to win and I thought the lads did really well."

Ghana, playing in their first World Cup finals match, looked nervous in the opening stages and almost fell behind in the 27th minute when Luca Toni wriggled free of marker Kuffour and blasted a shot against the underside of the bar.

That served as a wake-up call to the Africans who then produced their best spell of the game, twice giving the Italians a scare.

Asamoah Gyan should have done better when he drove wide after being set up by Matthew Amoah. Emmanuel Pappoe then blasted high and wide from a promising position in the 32nd minute.

Italy responded with a thundering drive from 30 meters by Francesco Totti which Kingston tipped over.

Five minutes before the break Totti played a quick, short-corner to an unmarked Pirlo who had the space to line up a shot which whistled through a crowded penalty area to give Lippi's side the lead.

Albertino Gilardino forced Kingston into action again in the 51st minute with a low drive after racing on to a delightful Totti pass but again Ghana replied, Michael Essien's 20-metre drive forcing Gianluigi Buffon to full stretch.

Totti limped off in the 56th minute to be replaced by Mauro Camoranesi and Italy continued to look dangerous, Simone Perrotta bringing a good save from Kingston.

Ghana had an appeal for a penalty turned down in the 79th minute when Gyan went down under challenge inside the area.

"You've seen the Italians, they were very good," said Ghana coach Ratomir Dujkovic. "Maybe we had some chances but we missed them.

"With one group of players I'm satisfied, with another group I am not."

Ghana next face Czech Republic in Cologne on Saturday, the same day Italy play the United States in Kaiserslautern.

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