Many matches have been played in the FIFA World Cup history. But, one match stands apart for many reasons. It was the match played between Germany and Italy in the 2006 World Cup. This unforgettable match occurred during the semi-finals.
Azzurri’s run in the WC shocked many. No one was considering Italy to be amongst the favourites for the title. Italians were morally down due to the infamous Serie A’s fixing scandal – ‘Calciopoli’.
Before the semi-finals, the Italian had conceded only 1 goal (an own goal by Christina Zaccardo) in 5 games. Germans were in superb form.
In the first 90 minutes, both teams had their chances. Pirlo’s 24th-minute free-kick eluded both Luca Toni and Marco Materazzi by a fraction. Buffon had to rush to stop the advancing of Miroslav Klose. He also saved the shot of Podolski from a close range. Michael Ballack missed a free-kick. Neither of the teams could capitalize on their chances and the match remained goalless during the regular time.
It was in the extra period that the game truly came to life. The Italians were famed for a defensive game. Surprisingly, they adopted an attacking approach in extra time. Azzurri was aware that the Germans had a brilliant record at penalty shootouts. Die Mannschaft was on the streak of five shootout wins on the trot.
For the much improved Italians substitutes, Alberto Gilardino and Gianluca Zambrotta hit the woodwork. Del Piero squandered a shooting chance from the edge of the box. Lehman had to make a diving save for effort of Andreas Pirlo. DFB –Elf also responded. Podolski missed a header and forced Gianluigi Buffon to perform a brilliant one-handed save. They kept the pace of the game in check. The Germans were slowly drifting the game towards shootouts, aware of their superiority there.
But Pirlo still had time to have his say. The Italians were pushing forward. In 119th minute, he threaded the ball to Grosso. His first-time shot gave Lehmann no chance. The ball was inside the net. All the Italians erupted in joy. All the German supporters inside Iduna Park were stunned.
In desperation, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side moved ahead in search of an equalizer. The match had moved into the last minute. Gilardino found the ball. He rolled it to Del Piero. With a clinical touch, he chipped the ball into the corner of the net. Lehman could hopelessly see it moving towards ending all German hopes. 2-0 was the score and the time was up.
The final whistle evoked contrasting emotions. The Germans were left bereft as their dream of lifting the world cup on home soil came to a heart-breaking end. There were tears among German players and fans. The Italians were singing and dancing.
Italy’s 4-2-3-1 proved effective. Pirlo and Gattuso had continued to release attacking moves from the midfield. The Germans could not break the nucleus of this Italian pair. In the end, the Blues were the deserving winners.
The 2006 World cup still holds a special place in the heart of Italian soccer lovers around the world. Since the time of Hitler, the German team had never lost in Dortmund. All the Italian players in the 2006 squad were part of Serie A clubs. The top scorers were Marco Materazzi and Loca Toni. Both scored two goals each. In all, there were ten different scorers for the eventual world cup champion. It reflected the true team spirit. Marcello Lippi became the first coach to win both, the UEFA Champions League and the World Cup.
Later, they went on to lift the World Cup for the fourth time.
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