Wednesday, July 05, 2006

World Cup Update: Italy Prevails Over Home Team [J. Mark English]

Jere Longman, New York Times - -

DORTMUND, Germany, July 4 — Its players were drenched and exhausted by the end of overtime, bending over when the ball was not in play, the muscles in their legs drained and cramping. And yet Italy kept charging ahead at Germany on Tuesday night in the World Cup semifinals. At all costs, it had to avoid the fearful and alarming possibility of penalty kicks.
Three times in the previous four World Cups, Italy had exited after losing a penalty-kick shootout. It had become something of a national dread, five players setting the ball up 12 yards from goal only to have too many of their kicks saved, or blasted high, or sliced and hooked harmlessly, inconsolably wide.
Desperate to avoid such a capricious ending Tuesday night, Italy essentially played with four forwards late into overtime. And finally, a scoreless game broke open into a frantic, startling 2-0 victory over the host country in this industrial Ruhr city where Germany had never lost a match in 14 games dating to 1935.
After playing rugged and unyielding defense, Italy summoned a pair of goals out of nowhere in the final three minutes of overtime to advance to Sunday's final in Berlin against France or Portugal, which play Wednesday in the second semifinal. Italy will be seeking its fourth World Cup title and its first since 1982.