Sebastian Giovinco helped Italy’s Under-23 side to a win over the Ivory Coast in their Toulon Tournament opener in France.
Pierluigi Casiraghi’s side triumphed 2-0 in their first warm-up game ahead of August’s Olympic Games in China. But playing so shortly after the climax of the Serie A season, the Azzurrini looked sluggish on a hot afternoon in the south of France.
However Giovinco showed why he is regarded as one of Italy’s most exciting prospects when he turned the game on its head in the second half.
After an encouraging start, the Ivory Coast took charge of the first half and were awarded a highly dubious penalty for a shirt pull.
But Empoli goalkeeper Davide Bassi was the hero as he saved a powerful, albeit central, spot-kick from Sekou Cisse with his body.
Fussy refereeing and sloppy passing thwarted the Azzurri with AZ Alkmaar forward Graziano Pelle proving profligate, but Siena’s Daniele Galloppa and Palermo-bound captain Antonio Nocerino impressing.
Casiraghi looked frustrated as the half-time whistle sounded with his team fortunate to be level.
The second half proved equally scrappy, but Italy got their breakthrough courtesy of Juventus starlet Giovinco. The diminutive forward reacted quickly to a flick-on from Pelle and poked the ball home in the 65th minute.
And Giovinco completed a match-winning brace with a low free-kick from long range, which went through the goalkeeper with 17 minutes remaining.
Substitute Lanzafame's well-hit strike was saved in the closing stages after another assist from Pelle and Lazio's Lorenzo De Silvestri also came close.
Italy will now play Turkey in La Seyne on Friday. The Turks beat the USA 3-2 in Group B's earlier game.
Italy: Bassi, Motta, Coda, Dellafiore, De Silvestri, Cigarini (Candreva 78), Nocerino (c), Galloppa (Guarente 72), Giovinco, Osvaldo (Lanzafame 65), Pelle.
Pierluigi Casiraghi (Italy coach)
"In the first half we struggled a little, while in the second half things went much better for us. These matches are important to see where we need to improve and on which areas to work on. At the end of a league season it is not easy to play at a high pace and the Ivory Coast is a very good team that has very good individuals. Giovinco had an important role in this victory and he is fundamental to the style of the team and for his teammates."
MATCHDAY 1 RESULTS
20-05-08: Japan 1-0 Netherlands
20-05-08: France 3-5 Chile
21-05-08: Turkey 3-2 USA
21-05-08: Ivory Coast 0-2 Italy
Source: C4 Football Italia