Italy’s substitutes did the damage in Hamburg, with a first half goal from Marco Materazzi and a late strike to goal poacher Filippo Inzaghi enough to see off the Czechs who were reduced to 10 players just before halftime when midfielder Jan Polak received his second yellow card for the match.

The Czech Republic had all the early possession and shots on goal, but Italy were the first to score when substitute Materazzi rose high to meet a Francesco Totti corner in the 26th minute, sending his header into the bottom left of goal, evading diving Czech keeper Petr Cech.

The Inter Milan defender had come on for the injured Alessandro Nesta in the 17th minute, and rewarded coach Marcello Lippi with a decisive goal.

AC Milan striker Inzaghi subbed on for Alberto Gilardino with half an hour to go, and sealed the match for the Azzurri in the 87th minute when he sprung the offside trap, rounded Cech and slotted home into an open goal.

With their one man advantage after the break, the Italians pressed forward in the second half and had early chances through Totti and captain Fabio Cannavaro.

In the 64th minute, midfielder Mauro Camoranesi almost doubled the lead when he glanced a header wide off a Totti corner.

Filippo Inzaghi is congratulated
by team mate Andrea Pirlo

With the Czechs going after the elusive equaliser, an unmarked Inzaghi should have sealed the match for the Italians in the 84th minute but he headed over the bar from just six yards out and had to wait three minutes to redeem himself.

In the first half, Mexican referee Benito Archundia awarded a total of 23 fouls, three yellow cards and one red card, with Polak sent from the field in stoppage time after receiving his second yellow card for a dangerous tackle.

Czech striker Milan Baros had the first shot on goal when latching on to a Pavel Nedved cross, but the Aston Villa player returning from injury showed signs of rustiness as he failed to control the ball leaving Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon an easy save.

In the 12th minute Nedved had a shot on goal of his own with Juventus team mate Buffon doing well to save to his left, while four minutes later the Czech midfielder was again on target, this time with Buffon unable to hold the shot, defender Marek Jankulovski following in with an effort that the Italian keeper did save.

With high expectations on them going into the tournament and after an impressive 3-0 win over the USA in their first match, the Czechs will be utterly disappointed to be the first major casualty at Germany 2006.

Italy will now play the runner-up in Group F in the round of 16, which mathematically could be any of the four teams in that group, but is likely to be either Australia or Croatia.