Fabio Grosso, Alessandro Del Piero- Italy’s goalscorers
I think Germany is in a state of shock, just when it looked like the match was going to go to a penalty shootout. You could almost feel Lehmann pulling out another cheatsheet on the Italian penalty takers. The stats were already flashing on the TV. Germany 4-0 and Italy 0-3 in PK shootout. 28 mins + into ET. What else could be possible??
But the number of corner kicks that Germany gave up came to haunt them. Lehmann turns Del Piero’s shot out for a corner. Out of the 12 corners taken by Italy, Lehmann must have plucked at least 6 off the air. Not this one. This one was picked up by Pirlo at the top of the box. Showing amazing patience, Pirlo instead of forcing another shot on goal, waited, and slid in a perfect pass for Grosso, who curled the ball past Lehmann with his left foot with a first timer. 29 mins. Italy 1 Germany 0. The TV showed the crestfallen Klinsmann who after moping for a few seconds galvanized himself into action by windmilling his arms towards the Italian goal. Odonkor chased the ball but the rest of the German squad could not catch up and the opportunity was lost.
Back came the Italians, and this time Gilardino was the playmaker slipping in a sweet little pass for Del Piero to bury the ball at the left hand corner of the goal. 30+ mins Italy 2 Germany 0.
In a minute’s time, the fate of this match was sealed. Marcelo Lippi over the top claim that Juventus had never lost in Dortmund, his favorite stat was all that was needed. And Fabio Grosso did not have to resort to cheap theatrics to get his goal, a beauty. Grosso is a defender but he could have been Paolo Rossi, Roberto Baggio, or Salvatore Schillaci, the way he played that ball, with a natural strikers instinct, a goal that these three great Azzurris would have been justly proud of. The Italians are in the finals and now 11 goals have been scored of 10 men. This is teamwork.
Lippi’s substitutions were inspired. He brought in Gilardino for Toni, Del Piero for Perotta, and Iaquinta for Camoranesi. The three made an immediate impact on attack. Iaquinta was specially difficult to get a hold of, and ran around Mertesacker, Metzelder, and Friedrich. Gilardino’s versatility as a creator meant that the attack did not have to go through Pirlo all the time. And Del PIero finally made good on the left with his ball control and speed. Lippi did not want to go into a penalty shootout. The last thing he wanted to was to rely on a game of chance that did not favor the Italians.
But you have to ask, were the Italians knowingly holding out this long, to bury the knife into Germany? Because they could not have asked for a better finish. In the end Germany waited too long, hoping that the game would go to their strength. Ballack again disappeared for the second match in a row. Klose and Poldolski were ineffective together. In the end a couple of stats were thrown out of the window, the 13-0-1 German run in Dortmund, and the 20-0 record when Germany has Ballack in the team. This World Cup, Ballack was a disappointment. Sebastian Kehl was adequate and you could make a case that Frings was missed but I have no doubt that the result would have been the same.
Klinsmann could not have asked for more and neither could Germany. This German team was not supposed to have gone this far. This team will be around and I think German soccer will do everything to bring Klinsi back.
Andrea Pirlo was absolutely magnificent. He and Zidane have shown what a difference a versatile midfielder can make. The one thing that Pirlo and Zinedine both have in common is patience and an ability for heads up play.
The France- Portugal match will be fascinating because it will see Zidane going against Deco, another beautiful little playmaker.