Football: Ravanelli starts Italian rout

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Second-half goals by Fabrizio Ravanelli, Alessandro Del Piero and Roberto Di Matteo gave Italy a 3-0 victory against Slovakia in a friendly match in Catania, Sicily yesterday.

The Italian team overwhelmed their opponents, to the cheers of a sell- out crowd of 28,000, following a lacklustre first half marked by missed chances, confused midfield play and a slow rhythm by the home side.

Italy, in the first of three exhibition games prior to the World Cup finals in France, tested four new players - Roma's Luigi Di Biagio, Inter's Francesco Moriero, Fiorentina's Sandro Cois and Juventus' Moreno Torricelli, all of whom put in encouraging performances. The Italians were simply too aggressive and too quick for Slovakia.

Ravanelli opened the scoring in the 48th minute, slotting in a rebound following a powerful shot by Francesco Moriero. Del Piero, who had wasted Italy's best scoring chance in the first half, made it 2-0 in the 53rd minute, when he capitalised on a mistake by the Slovakian defence.

Chelsea's Di Matteo added the third with a powerful shot from10 yards, after defenders cleared a Ravanelli header from the line. Slovakia, who did not qualify for the World Cup, concentrated solely on defence and produced just one scoring chance, saved by the Italian goalkeeper, Angelo Peruzzi, in the second half.

Italy next play Paraguay on April 22. The third exhibition match, against either Hungary, Sweden or Switzerland, is still to be arranged. The Italians, losing finalists to Brazil in the 1994 World Cup, play Chile first in the 1998 finals in Bordeaux on 11 June. They also play Cameroon on 17 June and Austria on 23 June in the group stages.