Croatia stun Italy 2-1, keep hopes alive

A goal each from Ivica Olic and Milan Rapaic gives Croatia 2-1 win over Italy 2-1, reviving its chances of advancing to the World Cup's second round.

updated: February 25, 2007 09:27 IST
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Ibaraki, Japan:

Ivica Olic and Milan Rapaic scored a goal each within three minutes Saturday as Croatia came from behind to beat Italy 2-1, reviving its chances of advancing to the World Cup's second round. Olic slipped behind three Italian defenders to score in the 73rd minute and a Rapaic volley deflected off a defender to sail into the goal four minutes later as the Croatians recovered from a disappointing first match, which they lost 1-0 to Mexico. Italy had gone ahead in the 55th minute as Christian Vieri leapt over a defender to head in a pass from Cristiano Doni. It was the third goal at this year's tournament for Vieri, who has scored a total of eight goals in eight World Cup matches. Filippo Inzaghi thought he had tied the game in the closing minutes but his goal was nullified by an offsides call. "I don't understand how (it was ruled out)", Vieri said. It was one of several chances for the Italians in the last 10 minutes. The best opportunity came in the 87th minute as a free kick from Francesco Totti hit the post, rolling behind the goalkeeper and bouncing away from the goal mouth. Italy looked sluggish in the opening 45 minutes, managing only two shots on goal in a first half plagued with fouls but dominated by Croatia. But the Italians slowly improved in the second half and Vieri threatened at least three times as their attack gained steam. In the 50th minute, a Vieri header was disallowed for offsides, and Vieri was yellow-carded in the aftermath. Croatia, Italy and Mexico each have three points in the group. Italy leads on goal difference, followed by Mexico. On Thursday, Italy plays Mexico which first plays Sunday against Ecuador. The two European teams have met four times in recent years, with both teams winning a game and drawing two. The Italians last beat Croatia in a 1942 friendly while Croatia defeated the World Cup favorites during a European Championship qualifier in 1994. Lineups:Italy: 1- Gianluigi Buffon; 2-Christian Panucci, 3-Paolo Maldini (c);5-Fabio Cannavaro, 6-Cristiano Zanetti, 10-Franceso Totti, 11-Cristiano Doni (Filippo Inzaghi, 79); 13-Alessandro Nesta (Marco Materazzi, 24), 17-Damiano Tommasi; 19-Gianluca Zambrotta, 21-Christian Vieri. Croatia: 1-Stipe Pletikosa; 3-Josip Simunic, 4-Stjepan Tomas, 5-Milan Rapaic (Dario Simi, 79), 7-Davor Vugrinec (Ivica Olic, 57), 10-Niko Kovac, 11-Alen Boksic, 14-Zvonimir Soldo (Jurica Vranjes, 62); 15-Daniel Saric, 17-Robert Jarni (c), 21-Robert Kovac.