Elephants upset Prandelli
Toure strike condemns Prandelli to losing start
Last Updated: 10/08/10 10:28pm
Ivory Coast players celebrate
New Italy coach Cesare Prandelli got off to a losing start after going 1-0 to Ivory Coast at at Upton Park.
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.
The 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 £24million 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 Kolo 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.