2 Goals In Last 3 Minutes Sent Italians Into Joy, Germans Into Tears:
GERMANY 0 - 2 ITALY
ITA - Grosso (118min), Del Piero (120min);
The Germans must have a hell of a night yesterday. Not out there to party and celebrate of course, but to mourn and to reflect on the lost to Italy on their own backyard. They have been the second best team throughout the night and didn't step up their game to trouble Italy too much, other than a shot from Podolski, which is brilliantly parried by Gigi Buffon, they didn't do anything of note and did not seemed to impose their play on the Italians, instead it was the other way round, with the Italians being very patient and having the lion share of possesion.
To be really honest, I was taken aback by Klinsmann's decision when I saw the First XI of the German squad. They replaced attacking winger, Bastian Schweinsteiger with Sebastian Kehl while Tim Borowski was pushed out wide to play on the left. To me it looked alittle too conservative for my liking and seemed to be inviting the Italian's pressure and also showed their determination to limit the Italian's attack by trying to neutralise the threat of Francesco Totti, whom we all know is a dangerman for the Azzurris. Early on, Italy set the pace of the game with their constant counter attack and the German defence JUST managed to keep them out for in a few instances. Italian striker, Luca Toni enjoyed the spaces between Mertesacker and Friedrich, whom are a little shaky in this game. The first half of the game ended in a stalemate, with the Italians holding more of the possesion, but the German with more intention of breaking the deadlock.
After a poor first half showing, Germany came out all guns blazing, with a few chances, namely falling to Lukas Podolski and Michael Ballack. Jurgen Klinsmann must have said something to them in the break. They looked a little listless in the first half and you could sense anxiety growing in the fans over in Dortmund. Let me mention it once again, that the Germans have never lost in the Westfalenstadion for over 15 games. But expectations heaps pressure, and the pressure seemed to take a toil in the Germans.
Once again, a defence brilliantly marshalled by my man-of-the-match, Fabio Cannavaro, denied any space to Miroslav Klose, the current leading World Cup goalscorer, and he was left isolated, along with Podolski. He's a goalpoacher and should be in the penalty box, but he was even back in the half-way line helping out the midfield and looks a little lost when he got the ball back. He's not someone with the speed and dribbling skills of Messi, therefore he lost lots of possesion at the final third, with Borowski and Kehl failing to support, and Ballack failing to stamp his authority in the game once again. He looked a little off coloured and fell down at every chance. A sign of a Chelsea player, eh?
Seemed to me it's predictable, that the game is going into extra-time and a possible penalty shoot-out. Legs were tired and Germans were frustrated. Seemed to me they were not as cool as they used to be whereas the Italians seemed REALLY patient, passing the ball around nicely with Andrea Pirlo at the thick of things, passing the ball nicely and spreading plays. I could see our Xabi Alonso being the next Pirlo, as they seemed to be the very same type of player.
When it all seemed like it's gonna be yet another penalty shoot-out, it was Pirlo who changed the face of the game. After receiving the ball just outside the penalty box after a corner-kick, he waited for the perfect opportunity to slip a ball into the German defence, which looks knackered and lost their concentration. The pass was so subtle that it deceived the defence, and Fabio Grosso was in the box with the ball, unmarked. He turned and with his favoured left foot, curled the ball into the bottom corner of the net, with Lehmann diving desparingly and couldn't do anything about it.
The Germans were shaken and to score a goal against you in the second last minute in the match, it looked a dead-cert game over for the Germans. Yet they are still in the game and have to find the equaliser fast. But to their dismay, the German defence showed its vulnerability and inexperience once again, with most of their players pushed forward, leaving a gap in the back for the Italians to launch their counter-attack. AC Milan's Alberto Gilardino got the ball just outside the German penalty box, with only Per Mertesacker with him. He turned him inside-out before threading a perfect telling pass to Alessandro Del Piero, and you knew he couldn't miss from that sort of range. He finished it emphatically, chipping over the on-rushing Jens Lehmann. And it was all but game over for the Germans. No way back from then, as referee Archundia blowed the final whistle, and they got beaten in their own backyard, their first defeat in this World Cup and first in 15 games over at Dortmund.
They were duly disappointed with their performance last night. They started out a little too negative last night, handling the initiative to the Italians from the start, and never recovered. They were not of their usual slick pass and move side and made Buffon a virtual spectator, no shots for him to save except for the Podolski pile-driver. The tears flowed from a group of players, who are seemed to everyone that they are strong and cool, the German trait. But sometimes it's just the cruelty of the game, that sadness and disappointments are inevitable. But the big problem is can they bounce back from it and go even further the next time round? Let's wait and see in the 2008 European Championship.
Sums it all up eh?
Drogballs' Man Of The Match Award Goes To: Have to be between Fabio Cannavaro or Andrea Pirlo. Both played a blinder and did their job with wonderful Italian effectiveness. Cannavaro snuffed out all the German attacks with his positioning sense and fantastic tackling. Anyone saw him challenging a ball and won it when it seemed dead certain he was not going to win it? Pirlo, the wonderful playmaker for the Italians. Sometimes I think the English lacked someone like him in the midfield. Fantastic game for an under-rated player.