Italian team sheds tears of joy after two late goals

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Italian team sheds tears of joy after two late goals


Fabio Grosso was playing soccer in Italy’s fourth division only five years ago. Early this morning, Korean time, on hostile territory with a penalty shootout looming just minutes away, Grosso curled a left-footed shot past Germany’s goalkeeper, leading his team to the World Cup final.
“When I saw it go in, it was such a big emotional rush,” Grosso told Reuters. He later admitted he shed tears of joy. “I was glad to share it with all my teammates.”
Two minutes later, in soccer’s version of a buzzer beater, Italy’s Alessandro Del Piero, the 31-year-old in his last World Cup, took a pass alone in front of the goalkeeper and flicked it in the net. The final whistle then sounded: Italy 2, Germany 0.
“I’ve worked hard to keep myself ready, so that I could take my chance,” Del Piero told Reuters. “It was fantastic to be part of a match like that. To win in their own backyard, there aren’t any words that describe what I’m feeling right now.”
Del Piero was inserted in the extra period in favor of midfielder Simone Perrotta. He had played only sporadically in the tournament, but seized the moment after missing a couple of earlier chances.
Italy is aiming for its fourth World Cup title, in its sixth final game. If Italy gets another shutout victory in the championship match, it will be the stingiest World Cup champion ever. Italy has allowed only one goal ― an own goal in the first round against the Americans ― and would break the record set by 1998 French squad, which gave up two.
Before the match, something had to give.
Since 1935, Germany, the host nation, had not lost at Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion, where its semifinal showdown with Italy was held, posting 13 wins and a draw.
Italy, meanwhile, had not lost to Germany in four previous World Cup matches, winning two and drawing two others.
Both sides traded scoring chances during regulation time, but goalkeepers from each side, Gianluigi Buffon of Italy and Jens Lehmann of Germany, were up to the task. And when the teams entered the extra periods, neither side appeared to be playing for the penalty shootout, although Germany might have had the edge.
Italy had gone out of three of the last four World Cups on shootout losses, including the 1994 final, while Germany won all four of its shootouts in the World Cup, including the one against Argentina in the quarterfinals.
There were more chances during the extra periods, two 15-minute halves, than during the normal time. Substitutions by German coach Juergen Klinsmann and his Italian counterpart Marcello Lippi had a hand on key plays.
Germany’s speedy midfielder David Odonkor, who replaced Bernd Schneider in the 83rd minute, attacked the right side of the tiring Italian defense, and in the dying moments of the first extra half, he set up unmarked Lukas Podolski, who headed wide of the net from 10 yards out.
For Italy, it was Alberto Gilardino, who entered the game in the 74th minute, that almost broke the deadlock, as he hit the post from a close range under a minute into the extra period.
Then came Grosso’s goal. In the second round match against Australia, the 28-year-old defender drew the last-second penalty that led to the winning goal in that match.
“We were facing a really great side,” he said. “It’s a moment of great emotion and joy.”
Michael Ballack, the German captain, was on the other end. The midfielder’s signature long-range shots and diving headers were nowhere to be found. His off-balance kick that missed the net high, after Grosso gave Italy the lead, summed up Ballack’s offensive struggles. He failed to score in the tournament after posting three goals four years ago in Germany’s runner-up finish.
After the match, when asked if the loss to Italy was more bitter than the loss to Brazil in the 2002 final, which he missed on accumulated yellow cards, Ballack was close to tears and left the press conference without a reply.
Germany’s coach told his players to keep their heads up for the job well done.
“Every defeat is hard to take, but everyone can be very proud of this team,” Klinsmann told The Associated Press. “We are hugely disappointed, but I have to give a huge compliment to my team. It’s a very young team that showed great spirit and made the whole country very proud.”
Lippi was more than willing to talk about the match, his team, and his substitution patterns.
“It was clear that the end of the extra time would be decisive, which is why I brought on another attacker [Del Piero],” the coach told FIFA’s World Cup Web site. “We had a lot more of the possession overall, and that gave us confidence. I’m pleased that Del Piero was one of the players who helped to turn the match in our favor.”
Lippi then confidently looked ahead to the final, where Italy will face the winner of the second semifinal between France and Portugal.
“We’ll take whoever comes,” he was quoted on the Web site. “We don’t have any preferences.”

by Yoo Jee-ho
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