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Italy won for the second match in succession as Cesare Prandelli enjoyed a five-star return to the Stadio Artemio Franchi and a convincing win in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying group Group C against the Faroe Islands.
Prandelli, back at the stadium that was his home as ACF Fiorentina coach for five years until this summer, made five changes to the side that beat Estonia 2-1 on Friday, including Alberto Gilardino, who headed the hosts in front on 11 minutes. Daniele De Rossi and Antonio Cassano added further first-half strikes before Fabio Quagliarella pounced nine minutes from time and Andrea Pirlo curled in a late free-kick to send the Azzurri top of Group C.
Italy hit the ground running and could have twice taken the lead before Gilardino's opener. First the lively Cassano shot wide after a neat one-two on the edge of the area with Gilardino, and then the influential Pirlo sent a free-kick narrowly beyond the far post.
As in Estonia, it was a set piece from the Italy captain that produced the first goal, Gilardino rising to glance his 17th international goal past Gunnar Nielsen in front of his delighted home fans.
The next two strikes owed much to Luca Antonelli, the Parma FC full-back beginning by embarking on a forceful run before cutting the ball back to De Rossi, who rifled a deflected shot in off Atli Gregersen at the second attempt. Following further sterling approach play down the left by Antonelli, Cassano then picked up possession 22 metres out and scored with a powerful strike.
But for the intervention of Nielsen, the visitors, whose only threat before half-time was a tame free-kick by Christian Mouritsen, could have been worse off. In fact, it was a surprise that the hosts had to wait until nine minutes from time to make it 4-0, Juventus striker Quagliarella finally poking in from close range after Giampaolo Pazzini's shot had been blocked on the line.
After Cassano was again thwarted by Nielsen, Pirlo capped a polished performance with a curling effort that cemented Italy's place atop the section, two points clear of Serbia, who drew 1-1 with Slovenia. Prandelli's charges will next be tested in Northern Ireland on 8 October, when the Faroe Islands are in action away against Slovenia.
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