Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Thank God for that. Not that Italy won particularly, but that such a wonderful semi-final, full of honest, courageous, adventurous football and played in an electric atmosphere was not decided by the cruel charade of a penalty shoot-out.

Italy shaded it, possessing as they did in the end just the requisite superior quality in Andrea Pirlo's crafty through-ball and Fabio Grosso's beautiful finish. But most of all, they had Cannavaro. A more majestic performance has not been seen on an association football field since Paul McGrath in Giants Stadium. Perhaps the young Fabio was taking notes.

We're not taking any credit here for having called it, though. Toni and Totti, the pair TSA thought would give the obdurate Italians the edge over the enthusiastic Germans, may as well have been selling schnitzel to go outside Dortmund Hauptbahnhof such was the paucity of their contributions.

Toni suffered by Germany's high line forcing him out of his natural habitat in the penalty box, leaving lumbering ill-fittingly amidst the ebb and flow of this pulsating semi-final. Totti, on the other hand, simply couldn't, or wouldn't take control of a game the upper hand in which the busy Gattuso and committed Pirlo had gained for the Azzuri. Whither the cases of Gilardino, Iaquinta or dear good old Alex del Piero for the final?

And so the great adventure is over. The team which carried a thousand column inches on 'the New Germany' on its back finally gave way by virtue of its limitations. The transcendence of these and the nearly four weeks of tumult which has gripped the host nation will grant Jurgen Klinsmann an enduring place in his countrymen's hearts. It now remains for German football to continue this renewal and match with real quality and strength in depth the enthusiasm for football which cascades from their stands, and not just in this tournament.

What a semi-final though. Over to you, Zinedine and Luis.