The Italian Stallions

Italy and Germany served up one of the games of the tournament in last night’s World Cup Semi-Final in Dortmund. Two goals in the last two minutes of extra time did scant justice to the Germans performance which was solid if slightly unthreatening. Both teams created openings in the ninety minutes but Italy looked more likely to score, Jens Lehmann fully justified Klinsmanns decision to make him number one for the tournament by making a number of key saves. In the end Grosso’s opener was down to poor marking as he initially ran into the area on an arc and past Lehmann to the right edge of the area from where he scored. The German full back tracked him until he got outside of the six yard box and promptly stopped following. A tough lesson to learn. The breakaway for Del Piero’s second was pure class and everything that you have come to expect from Italian football, a classy backheel to set the Juve forward free and a fine curling finish. Over to France and Portugal to match the class, hopefully the French will wipe the floor with them and the Portuguese will implode as they did after the Euro 2000 Semi Final. Should the French win then Italy have that particular monkey to get off of their backs when they conceded a last minute equaliser and went onto lose to a David Trezeguet Golden Goal. If the French match the level of performance that they have shown against Spain and Brazil, then the Portuguese are in real trouble and the Italians would be by no means the clear favourites for the final that they ought otherwise to be.

One other point worth commenting on from last night’s game was the absence of gamesmanship, both sets of players should be commended for their willingness to accept a decision and get on with the game, helped in no small part by probably the best refereeing performance of the tournament so far.

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