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Fantasy Focus

Relief for World Champions as poor run ends

ROME, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Italy's media breathed a sigh of relief after the world champions beat Ukraine 2-0 in a Euro 2008 qualifier to notch up their first victory since Roberto Donadoni took over as coach.

Saturday's win, which followed a defeat to Croatia in a friendly in August then a 1-1 draw with Lithuania and a 3-1 loss to France in their opening two Group B matches, put them back on track in their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign.

'Welcome back Italy,' read the headline on the front of Corriere dello Sport on Sunday.

La Gazzetta dello Sport noted the Azzurri's shaky performance, but ran a front-page editorial entitled 'Winning again was the only thing that counted'.

Italy were grateful to an inspired performance from keeper Gianluigi Buffon who made a string of saves to ensure the first clean sheet of Donadoni's tenure before a 71st-minute penalty by Massimo Oddo broke the deadlock.

'I just did what I had to. We knew it was going to be tough,' Buffon was quoted as saying in Gazzetta dello Sport.

'It was a difficult match and if we hadn't won this time, it would have been a very negative result.'

Luca Toni also gave an impressive performance in his first international since the World Cup final in July.

The Fiorentina striker scored twice in the 3-0 win over Ukraine in the World Cup quarter-finals and was again on target on Saturday, grabbing Italy's second goal with a dipping shot from outside the area.

'It's obviously a team that brings me luck,' he said.

'It wasn't easy to find space, but in the end we did it. I was pleased for Donadoni, who has been going through a tough period, like all of us.'

Toni's strike partner Alessandro Del Piero warned, however, that Italy could not afford to get complacent in the run-up to their next qualifier away against Georgia on October 11.

'We deserved the win, but we need to win on Wednesday to keep up,' he said.

Scotland top the group with nine points followed by France on six and Lithuania and Italy on four.