Swansea defender Chris Mills set a record as the youngest player ever to appear at the World Cup when he came on as a second-half substitute for Wales, but there was little else to celebrate in Volgograd as Italy ran out comfortable 4-0 winners in today’s opening Group C match.
The first-half was a remarkably flat affair, with Italy in control but starting in their traditional slow fare. Neither ‘keeper was tested in the opening 45 minutes, with only Italy having efforts at goal, all three off-target from distance.
Five minutes after the break Bayern Munich’s Marco Faraoni hit the woodwork when he rose highest to meet a Sebastian Giovinco corner, his header coming down off the bar and along the line before hitting the far post and being cleared. The Italians appealed in vain to the officials but the GLT system disagreed and it remained goalless.
It didn’t take long for the 2014 finalists to make a breakthrough after that. Fernando Forestieri picked-up a Nocerino pass, beat Turner for pace and drilled a low shot past Wayne Hennessey from fifteen yards. Within quarter of an hour one had become three…
The second came when Alessandro Florenzi’s good work found Giovinco lurking outside the box. He clipped the ball into Giuseppe Rossi whose flicked header fell perfectly into the path of Florenzi who rounded Hennessey and slotted home. Florenzi then became provider as his shot caused a scramble in the box, with Forestieri stabbing home for his second and Italy’s third.
With 20 minutes remaining, Chris Mills made history when he replaced Gareth Owen. Aged just 16 years and 264 days he became the youngest ever player to appear at the World Cup Finals, beating Norman Whiteside’s record by 144 days which he set for Northern Ireland in Spain in 1992.
Inside the final ten minutes, Italy added a fourth. Faraoni crossed for Giuseppe Rossi whose shot was blocked by Williams, but the Welsh defence were unable to clear and the Villarreal striker poked it towards goal where Hennessey got a hand on it but couldn’t stop it squirming over the line. This time the GLT indicated goal and it was 4-0.
Mills was harshly adjudged to have fouled Florenzi the two tangled over a ball running out of play, and the Spanish referee pointed to the spot. Up stepped Forestieri for his hat-trick, only for the Juventus midfielder to smash it against the post in the last minute.
It finished 4-0 and Italy enjoyed 61% possession over the 90 minutes, completely shut out the Welsh side who didn’t conjure a single effort at goal all game. Italy face Ghana in Moscow on Friday, with Wales meeting Saudi Arabia in Samara.
FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP C WALES 0-4 ITALY Forestieri 53, 69 Florenzi 60 Rossi 82 (Forestieri m/pen 90)