Tuesday June 12 2018
On this day: Italy 2-0 Ghana

On this day in 2006, Italy got their World Cup campaign off to a winning start with a 2-0 victory over Ghana in Hanover.

The Azzurri went into the tournament under the cloud of the Calciopoli scandal, with the futures of several of the Juventus and Milan dominated squad very much up in the air.

CT Marcello Lippi imbued a siege mentality, basing the team in Duisburg, a city almost flattened by bombing in the Second World War, and one with a large Italian population.

Possessed of a truly gifted squad, the Coach opted to start Roma’s Francesco Totti ahead of Juventus captain Alessandro Del Piero in the first match.

Despite the talent in the squad, Italy had failed to get out of the Group Stage at Euro 2004 and had been controversially eliminated by South Korea four years earlier.

In truth it wasn’t a strong start to the 2006 tournament, with Totti and Andrea Pirlo providing brief glimpses of quality in a scrappy first half.

Daniele De Rossi saw yellow early on for a studs-up challenge on Michael Essien, charging down the resulting free-kick with his face.

Italy broke, with Pirlo slipping a delightful reverse pass in to Simone Perrotta, whose cross only just evaded Luca Toni.

At the back post, Alberto Gilardino couldn't quite find the angle to turn it in.

Toni then came within centimetres of opening the scoring, as his rasping half-volley crashed off the underside of the bar and back out.

Asamoah Gyan dragged one wide at the other end, while Essien smashed one just past the near post.

The Azzurri were looking unusually shaky in defence, and left-back Emmanuel Pappoe should have done better when he found space in the box before blazing over.

Italy finally got their goal five minutes before half-time though, thanks to a wonderful strike by Pirlo.

Receiving the ball from a short corner, the midfield maestro was afforded time and space to curl a shot into the far side-netting, with the ball narrowly avoiding the head of Gilardino on its way in.

It could have been two, but Richard Kingson was off his line sharply to deny Fabio Grosso, who had been played in by Totti.

Ghana weren’t beaten though, and Buffon was forced to beat away an Essien volley early in the second half after Gilardino had again been denied by Kingson.

A clash with John Paintsil forced Totti off, with Mauro Camoranesi coming on to replace him.

Perrotta should have killed the game, but hit the ball straight at the Ghana goalkeeper when played through one-on-one.

Gyan had two penalty appeals turned away, going down twice under De Rossi’s challenge. While the striker may have slipped on the first one, the Roma youngster was lucky to get away with the second.

As the African side pushed forward in the desperate pursuit of an equaliser, the Azzurri hit them with a sucker punch.

Substitute Vincenzo Iaquinta chased down a long ball, which Roma defender Sami Kuffour failed to clear.

The striker had a free run on goal, and took the ball around Kingson before stroking it into the empty net.

Italy had their win, even if the performance hadn’t been as convincing as Lippi would have liked.

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