International Friendly

August 10, 2010



0 - 1

Ivory Coast

International Friendly

18:45 +00:00, August 10, 2010

Upton Park, England

Referee: Martin Atkinson

Prandelli off to losing start

Scoring Summary

Italy Ivory Coast
 Kolo Touré (55')

Cesare Prandelli's reign as Italy head coach got off to a disappointing start as he watched his side fall to a narrow defeat thanks to Kolo Toure's winner on a miserable night at Upton Park.

• Prandelli blames fitness issues

Prandelli, appointed as Marcello Lippi's successor in June, signalled his intent to draw a line under Italy's World Cup debacle by handing four players their first cap but they were unable to overcome an Ivory Coast side that looked a far more accomplished side than the 2006 world champions.

Goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu and defender Cristian Molinaro started their first internationals, while Manchester City target Mario Balotelli lined up alongside Brazil-born Amauri up front.

Ivory Coast, without a manager since the departure of Sven-Goran Eriksson, started with only five of the team that beat North Korea 3-0 in their final World Cup game.

Balotelli's fiery temperament off the pitch and his inconsistent performances on it had caused Lippi to exclude the 19-year-old from his squad for South Africa.

Without him, an old Italian side floundered spectacularly at the tournament, ending up bottom of a group that contained Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia.

The volatile Inter Milan striker has been at the centre of speculation linking him with a £24 million move to Eastlands. He made his presence felt from the kick-off, with potential City team-mate Kolo Toure finding his muscular frame hard to handle.

Balotelli hammered a 22-yard free-kick just over Daniel Yeboah's bar with four minutes on the clock as the Italians dominated the opening exchanges on a surface soaked by a day-long downpour in East London.

Emmanuel Eboue then drove straight at Sirigu from 18 yards on 18 minutes before Gervinho failed to hit the target after being played through by a cheeky backheel from Seydou Doumbia.

Amauri headed over from six yards just before the break after a clever one-two between Simone Pepe and Angelo Palombo prised open the Elephants' otherwise water-tight defence.

Italy almost took the lead straight after the interval when Marco Motta broke into the box before seeing his shot rebound off the post straight into the arms of the Ivorian goalkeeper. That served as a wake up call for the Elephants, who kept the ball well, much to the frustration of Prandelli's team.

They then took a deserved lead in the 56th minute when Toure nodded home Guy Demel's cross from the touchline.

Balotelli departed to a good reception from the Italian fans when he departed on the hour as their African opponents showed skill and class to keep the ball with some tidy passing.

Italy were restricted to long shots for most of the second half with substitute Fabio Quagliarella and Marco Borriello the main protagonists.

The 11,000 plus crowd were treated to some show-boating by the Elephants as they continued to frustrate the opposition until the final whistle.

  • Prandelli blames fitness issues

    Prandelli put his side's poor showing down to a lack of fitness with the beginning of the Italian domestic season still over two weeks away and is confident that they will be firing on all cylinders by the time their Euro 2012 qualification begins in Estonia in September.

    Prandelli said: "The Ivory Coast played well. Their defence was strong so we weren't able to get the ball through as we wanted to but I'm not worried. The players aren't in good enough condition yet. The Italian championship hasn't started yet so I'm sure we will be better when we start qualifying for the Euros because everyone will be fit then.''

    Prandelli cited a lack of ability to break through a physical Ivory Coast backline that included Manchester City captain Toure as a source of frustration.

    He continued: "We were looking to go through Antonio Cassano through the middle but we weren't able to, which caused us to go down the wings. That was disappointing.''

    Interim coach Francois Zahoui has been in charge of the Ivory Coast since the end of the World Cup, where the team was lead by former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.

    The Swede has been offered the chance of staying on as coach after he narrowly missed out on guiding the team through a tricky group containing Brazil and Portugal. Eriksson is unlikely to stay on however, and has been linked with the vacant manager's job at Aston Villa.

    Former Elephants midfielder Zahoui insists he does not want the job on a permanent basis though, despite the encouraging result.

    He said: "I am very proud to have beaten this Italy team. It was a very strong side and it was important for us to win. I work for the youth team and I am only in charge for this international game. I am proud to work for the senior team but it is important to remember that I am in this position only until the federation decides what to do.

    "The federation can choose who they want but I am very proud to be in charge today. Whoever continues is a matter for the federation to decide.''