On this day, 12 June 2006 (Exactly 13 years ago) Italy got their 2006 FIFA World Cup campaign off to a winning start with a deserved victory over Ghana in Hanover.
A Ghana team making their FIFA World Cup debut contributed richly to the spectacle but Italy’s greater know-how told as they won through goals from Andrea Pirlo and substitute Vincenzo Iaquinta.
Pirlo opened the scoring with a rasping long-range drive in the first half and substitute 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 the previous season’s Golden Boot after scoring 31 goals for Fiorentina, led the line well for them.
After 27 minutes he almost scored with a superb piece of individual skill.
The then 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).
Subs Not Used: Amelia, Barone, Barzagli, Gattuso, Inzaghi, Materazzi, Oddo, Peruzzi, Zambrotta.
Booked: De Rossi, Camoranesi, Iaquinta.
Goals: Pirlo 40, Iaquinta 83.
Ghana: Kingston, Pantsil, Kuffour, Mensah, Pappoe (Shilla 45), Muntari, Essien, Appiah, Eric Addo, Gyan (Tachie-Mensah 89), Amoah (Pimpong 68).
Subs Not Used: Otto Addo, Adjei, Ahmed, Boateng, Dramani, Mohamed, Owu, Quaye, Sarpei.
Booked: Muntari, Gyan.
Attendance : 43,000.
Referee: Carlos Eugenio Simon (Brazil).
FIFA Man of the Match: Andrea Pirlo.
This victory ended a three match winless run for Italy in World Cup finals.
Their longest ever such streak was five matches (two in 1978, three in 1982), and that was followed by four wins culminating in their World Cup triumph of 1982.
Italy extended their unbeaten run to 19 international matches. This marked the longest undefeated sequence for the Italians since 1939.
Their last loss came on 9 October 2004, in the World Cup qualifier in Slovenia.
No debutant in this World Cup had won their debut match. Angola, Ghana and Ivory Coast all lost, while Trinidad & Tobago drew. With an average age of 25 years and 37 days, Ghana fielded the youngest line-up in the tournament so far.
Defender Fabio Cannavaro won his 94th cap for Italy in this match. Paolo Maldini (126 caps) and Dino Zoff (112) were the only two who had played more international matches for Italy.
On this day 12 June 1960 (Exactly 59 years ago) In a message to the Annual Conference of the Ghana Amateur Football Federation at Ho in the Volta Region, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah hinted the formation of a model football club. Among other things, Osagyefo said :
“My interest in football is so keen that I propose, in the near future, to encourage the formation of a model football club which will offer leadership and inspiration to football clubs in the country.
“This club shall be known as ‘Ghana Republicans’ to comomerate (sic) the launching of your Three-Year Development Plan in the Year of our Republic.
“I need not to remind you that football is now in the forefront of Ghana. It is in fact our national game.”
This led to the the formation of Real Republikans.
On this day 12 June 2016 (Exactly 3 years ago) Cristiano Ronaldo became the first footballer to top the Forbes’ Highest-Paid Athletes List, earning $88 million.
STORY: GEORGE MAHAMAH