World Cup: Italy and Ghana Into Last 16 (C)

Italy and Ghana went into their final group games today knowing that by avoiding defeat they’d be safely through to the second round, and that’s exactly what happened. A late Saudi Arabia red card and a trio of Italian goals in Sochi saw Italy top Group C, while Ghana and Wales shared four goals in the first half for an entertaining draw.

Two changes for Ghana from the draw against Italy, with Jordan Ayew and Nana Asare in the starting XI while Jordan’s older brother André made his 100th appearance for the side. Just the one change for Wales from their win over Saudi Arabia as Joe Ledley replaced Hal Robson-Kanu.

Chesterfield’s 21-year old striker Owen Drake® fired Wales ahead in the 7th minute, when he got on the end of Aaron Ramsey’s flighted free-kick into the box. With time to bring the ball down and set himself, Drake fired home from close range for one-nil.

The lead lasted just four minutes until Kamal Isaah got on the end of Asante’s ball across the six-yard after a run down the right. Isaah scoring his first senior goal for his country, out-muscling Adam Matthews in the chase to get to the cross first. A third goal came before the quarter-hour mark as Drake sent Collison’s cross past Larsen Kwarasey.

A fiesty period followed with the Slovakian referee showing four yellow cards in a twelve minute period, before Jordan Ayew fired home an equaliser. A drop of the shoulder was enough to evade the attentions of Ashley Williams, and Ayew got on the end of Cofie’s through-ball before slotting past Hennessey.

Ghana were happy with the draw which puts them into the second round. They’ll play the winners of Group D at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Sunday.

                  FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP C (3)
                        GHANA 2-2 WALES
                     Isaah 11     Drake 7, 14
                    J.Ayew 36

                       Mensah     Drake

Just one change for Italy as they looked to win the group in Moscow today: Giuseppe Rossi started up-top replacing Gianluca Capriari. Saudi Arabia also made a single change hoping to avoid a third defeat in three games: Hadi Saleh came in for Majid Al-Ibidan.

Fernando Forestieri scored his third goal of the tournament inside ten minutes to put Italy in front. Claudio Marchisio did all the hard work down the left, giving Ali Barnawi a torrid time before crossing where the Juventus midfielder met it at the far post with a superb diving head for 1-0.

Saudi Arabia were back on level terms in the 38th minute when Astori headed away an Al-Dosari corner, but only as far as Al-Mutairi who found Al-Dosari still out wide. The ball was fired into the six-yard box where Saleh Al-Enazi beat his marker to the ball and slammed home past Singu.

Muhand Autef picked-up a booking ten minutes after half-time and on the hour Italy went back in front. Nocerino intercepted in the centre circle and played it forward to Giuseppe Rossi. With options ahead of him, he turned Ali Barnawi – on a yellow – inside out before lashing a low shot home off the post.

With three minutes left, Autef was shown the fifth red card of the tournament when he earned a second yellow after bundling over Marchisio as Italy broke on a swift counter-attack, and Italy made the numerical advantage count shortly after as Alessandro Florenzi was free to head home Giovinco’s corner for 3-1.

Three points wins the group for Italy. They’ll play the Group D runners-up in Volgograd.

                  FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP C (3)
                 SAUDI ARABIA 1-3 ITALY
                  Al-Enazi 38     Forestieri 10
               Autef s/off 87     Rossi 61
                                  Florenzi 90