Pirlo gives Italy 1-0 lead over Croatia at half

Andrea Pirlo scored with a curving free kick to give Italy a 1-0

lead over Croatia at halftime of their Group C match Thursday at

the European Championship.

The Juventus midfielder placed the ball over Croatia’s three-man

wall and just inside the near post in the 39th minute. Croatia

goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa could only get a weak hand on it once

the ball was already inside his net.

Italy also had numerous other chances through Mario Balotelli

and Claudio Marchisio, while Croatia’s main threat came with a

long, sharply angled shot from fullback Darijo Srna in the

20th.

Croatia leads the group with three points after opening with a

3-1 win over Ireland. Italy has one point from its 1-1 draw with

Spain.

Croatia can advance if it wins.