Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Sportszilla's World Cup Review - July 4, 2006
By Imtiaz Mussa

Can Italy do what no team has ever done? Beat Germany in Dortmund? Can Germany get their first ever win over Italy in World Cup play? Something’s has to give.

Germany vs. Italy
Germany coach Jurgen Klinsmann has no doubts about his best team with nine of his squad starting all of their previous World Cup matches, but he springs a surprise and that list is now down to seven with Torsten Frings suspended and Bastian Schweinsteiger dropped. Tim Borowski and Sebastian Kehl step in. Italy welcomed Marco Materazzi back into the heart of their defence after the Inter Milan man's one-match suspension following a red card against Australia. His return, at the expense of Andrea Barzagli, is the only change.

The opening 90 minutes saw Italy work the first clear opening as Totti's pass picked out Simone Perrotta, but Lehmann smothered the ball. Fabio Cannavaro, exceptional throughout the match, marshalled the Italian back line effectively and limited Germany in the opening period. Italy saw a Pirlo free-kick on 24 minutes elude both Luca Toni and Marco Materazzi by a fraction. Then Toni was played in by Grosso, only for his goalbound shot to be blocked by Per Mertesacker. Germany, however, fashioned the best chance of the first half, but Bernd Schnieder shot over after finding rare space behind the Italian defense. Buffon had to make his first real save, and had to race from his goal to block as Miroslav Klose danced his way into the area. Germany was on top and Buffon parried a close-range effort from Podolski 12 minutes later. But extra-time seemed inevitable as Michael Ballack, not as his imperious best, sent a free-kick over the top from 20 yards.

The opening 90 minutes were intriguing but goalless and it was in extra-time that the game truly exploded into life. The Italians, famed for their defensive strength, adopted an increasingly attacking approach, aware of the Germans' brilliant record at penalty shoot-outs. Substitute Alberto Gilardino's shot rebounded off the post and Gianluca Zambrotta's drive struck the bar. But Podolski led the German attacking threat, missing the header from David Odonkor's cross and forcing a brilliant one-handed save from Buffon. Del Piero then squandered a shooting chance from the edge of the box after great work from Vincenzo Iaquinto and Francesco Totti and Pirlo forced a diving save from Lehmann. But Pirlo still had time to have his say as, with Italy pushing forward in numbers, he threaded the ball to Grosso whose first-time shot left Lehmann with no chance. The goal was timed at 119 minutes and Germany, and their supporters were stunned. And as Jurgen Klinsmann's side pushed forward in desperation, Gilardino found the ball in space and rolled it to Del Piero who sent a clinical finish beyond the advancing Lehmann into the roof of the net.

Man of the Match: Andrea Pirlo (Italy)
I always find myself stressing how important it is to control central midfield in order to win the game and I’m doing it again. Pirlo was tremendous today doing the job on the offensive and defensive end. In extra time, he had the shot that led to corner and off of that corner; he made the pass to Grosso that led to the game winning goal. He has gone a bit under the radar but is extremely important to the Azzurri.

General Thoughts: Germany
You have to give it up to Klinsmann. This country wanted him out before the World Cup but he managed to lead the Germans all the way to the semis. But more importantly, this team killed the subdued patriotism that existed in Germany and made the people proud. Unfortunately, they were unable to figure out this Italian defense for much of the match. They had their moments but Buffon was exceptional again. Their other problem was fitness heading toward the end of extra time. This team played 120 minutes against Argentina on Friday and the fatigue started to show. They were playing for penalties but Grosso’s strike meant they wouldn’t see it. This is a young team and should be favored in Euro 2008.

General Thoughts: Italy
Rome exploded when Grosso scored. For this team, it all starts with the best player in the tournament: Gianluigi Buffon. The goalkeeper has been fantastic and some of the credit should also go to the defense led by Fabio Cannavaro who has made life difficult for strikers. The midfielders have controlled the pace of the game and while their strikers haven’t necessarily been in form, they have found goalscorers from all over the pitch. Italy has to be favored to win the World Cup. They will find out tomorrow who their opponent will be. France/Portugal starts at 3:00pm EST.

Summary
Germany: Lehmann, Friedrich, Metzelder, Mertesacker, Lahm, Borowski (Schweinsteiger 72), Ballack, Kehl, Schneider (Odonkor 83), Klose (Neuville 111), Podolski.
Subs Not Used: Jansen, Huth, Nowotny, Hanke, Kahn, Asamoah, Hitzlsperger, Hildebrand.

Booked: Borowski, Metzelder

Italy: Buffon, Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Materazzi, Grosso, Camoranesi (Iaquinta 90), Perrotta (Del Piero 104), Gattuso, Pirlo, Totti, Toni (Gilardino 74).
Subs Not Used: Zaccardo, Barzagli, Peruzzi, Nesta, Amelia, Barone, Inzaghi, Oddo.

Booked: Camoranesi

Goals: Grosso 119, Del Piero 120.

Att: 65,000

Ref: Benito Archundia Tellez (Mexico)

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