2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™

2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™

9 June - 9 July

2006 FIFA World Cup™

<I>Azzurri</I> aim to reclaim winning tune

The passionate fans of FIFA World Cup™ host nation Germany put on a superb show during last Friday's quarter-final showdown against Argentina.

They never stopped believing in their team, even at 1-0 down with ten minutes to go when there appeared to be no way through an Albiceleste backline superbly marshalled by Roberto Ayala.

After the match, which had turned on a late leveller from the head of Miroslav Klose and keeper Lens Lehmann's penalty shoot-out heroics, the chorus of Modugno and Migliacci's Nel blu dipinto di blu burst from the lips of thousands of the Nationalmannschaft faithful - 'Fi-na-le o-o' replacing the more traditional words.

It is a refrain that has become increasingly popular among German sports fans when celebrating reaching the final stages of a competition. It is ironic, given that tonight's semi-final in Dortmund is between Germany and Italy , that the hosts should be using an Italian song to celebrate their success. Even more curious is the fact that the song makes more than a passing mention of the colour worn by Germany's opponents this evening.

Marcello Lippi's men will line up in Dortmund in an all-blue strip, so it is only fitting that the fans should ask them to recover a small piece of Italian culture and history, which the tifosi hope to be singing deep into the night, both in Dortmund and across Italy.

Italy supporters are no doubt hoping that Nel blu dipinto di blu can inspire the likes of Simone Perrotta, Gennaro Gattuso and Gianluca Zambrotta to even greater heights as they battle for a place in Sunday's Final.

Tactically, the Germans will take the field in a classic 4-4-2 formation; with the option of introducing David Odonkor wide on the right in place of Bastian Schweinsteiger or Bernd Schneider should the situation call for a blistering injection of pace. The one question mark is whether Klinsmann will go for the forward-thinking Tim Borowski or the more defensively-minded Sebastian Kehl as a replacement for the suspended Torsten Frings, who will certainly be missed.

Lippi has used various formations during the tournament so far, but the feeling is that the team will be unchanged from the side that beat Ukraine. The one exception could be the inclusion of experienced centre-back Marco Materazzi, back from suspension, in place of the excellent Andrea Barzagli.

The most intriguing duel will be on the Italian right flank, where Zambrotta and Mauro Camoranesi are set to come up against Philipp Lahm and Schneider. Francesco Totti will be roaming the space between the German midfield and defence, which gives Klinsmann, who had been hoping to have him marked by Frings, something of a headache. Michael Ballack, Totti's opposite number, usually does his damage from a position almost on the halfway line: nullifying the threat he poses will be the responsibility of AC Milan duo Gattuso and Andrea Pirlo.

The rugged central-defensive pairing of Fabio Cannavaro and Materazzi will be up against the tournament's hottest strike force in Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, while Fiorentina hitman Luca Toni will be trying to find space between Per Mertesacker and Christoph Metzelder, who have been improving with every match. On the Italian left it will be Fabio Grosso and Simone Perrotta against Friedrich and Schweinsteiger.

However, if and when Klinsmann decides to unleash the explosive Odonkor, Lippi will have to judge whether Azzurri left-back Grosso has the pace to deal with the fleet-footed German winger. One option could be for Massimo Oddo or Cristian Zaccardo to be brought on to play on the right, with Zambrotta switching wings. This is a distinct possibility, especially given that Grosso, like Gattuso, Zambrotta, Friedrich and Podolski, already has a yellow card to his name, which could affect his game.

In yet another sub-plot, it is showdown time for Gianluigi Buffon and Jens Lehmann, who have been two of the outstanding goalkeepers at this summer's showpiece event. The fans set to pack the FIFA World Cup Stadium Dortmund can expect to enjoy a classic game of international football.