Italy beat Czech Republic 2-0 to win Group E

Italy beat 10-man Czech Republic 2-0 on Thursday to win Group E at the World Cup and avoid a likely matchup with Brazil in the second round.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:34 IST
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Italy beat 10-man Czech Republic 2-0 on Thursday to win Group E at the World Cup and avoid a likely matchup with Brazil in the second round. Substitute defender Marco Materazzi headed in Francesco Totti's 26th-minute corner for his first goal in 29 international appearances. Fellow substitute Filippo Inzaghi beat the offside trap in the 87th minute to run unopposed from halfway and score with a low shot. The Czechs were reduced to 10 men when midfielder Jan Polak picked up his second yellow card in first-half injury time. Italy won the group with seven points. The second-ranked Czech Republic was eliminated, finishing with only the three points earned in an opening 3-0 win over the United States. Italy will now face the second-placed team from Group F, which is led by defending champion Brazil. The Czechs pressed early on and Milan Baros, returning from a left foot injury, nearly connected on an excellent cross-field setup from Pavel Nedved nine minutes in. Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had to lunge to his left to stop an 18-meter (yard) shot by Nedved in the 12th. A couple of minutes later Nedved intercepted a pass and sent the ball upfield to Baros, who earned a corner kick after a physical battle with defender Alessandro Nesta. Nedved sent another shot on goal from just outside the area in the 16th that Buffon stopped but couldn't quite gather, and the goalkeeper also had to block an attempt on the rebound from Marek Jankulovski. Nesta was replaced by Materazzi in the 17th and had ice applied to his right thigh, which has bothered him for the past couple of months. Gennaro Gattuso headed onto the top of the net from the edge of the area for Italy's first shot in the 25th, but Italy took the lead with its first shot on target a minute later. The 1.93-meter (6-foot-5) Materazzi outleaped Jan Polak and Radoslav Kovac for his header. Gattuso had picked up a yellow card for grabbing Nedved's legs before Polak received his first yellow for a foul on Mauro Camoranesi in the 35th. He then fouled Totti from behind for his second card and a red. Italy took the initiative at the start of the second half, with shots by Totti in 49th and 53rd. A few seconds later, Nedved got the ball on the counterattack and put in a powerful shot that Buffon punched away. Inzaghi got his first playing time of this World Cup when he replaced Gilardino in the 60th. The Czechs still pressed for the goal it needed to have a chance of advancing, but, after missing a couple of chances, Inzaghi dribbled around goalkeeper Petr Cech to tap in his 22nd goal in 50 games for Italy. (AP)