Italy celebrated a perfect start to Nigeria 2009 thanks to an amazing late winner from substitute Federico Carraro as the Azzurrini eventually wrestled their way past Algeria 1-0 in Kaduna. Some inspired goalkeeping from Mattia Perin played a major role in the Europeans claiming maximum points in this Group F opener.
Algeria started nervously with the Italians dominant early, circulating the ball with some good combination football. Scoring opportunities were at a premium, though, with a wide-range shot from Simone Dell Agnello inching wide of the right post. On the half-hour mark Marco Fossati's nice delivery brought Giacomo Beretta into action, but the striker from AC Milan was denied by Algerian keeper Abdennour Merzouki.
The team from North Africa rid themselves of their early nervousness and started to co-ordinate some sharp passing. No10 Abdelhakim Bezzaz proved to be a creative force and was invariably dangerous when delivering passes. On the stroke of half-time Youcef Khelife dribbled past two Italians, but his shot from a sharp angle was parried by Perin.
Algeria's Youcef Khelifi reacted quickly to a defensive slip but Perin denied the Algerians by racing of his line to block. It was a similar scenario soon after with Khelifi again finding himself unmarked in front of Perin who made the stop, much to the anguish of the Algerian forward.
Just when it seemed Italy had lost their belief in winning the match, Federico Carraro came on for striker Beretta. With 12 minutes remaining fellow substitute Alessandro Scialpi delivered a free-kick from wide on the left with the overhit ball rattling the crossbar. Italy claimed the rebound and the ball fell to midfielder Alessandro de Vitis, who chipped a high ball into Algeria's danger zone. Carraro claimed the loose ball and somehow volleyed home an amazing winner on the turn in a moment of raw skill.