TSG analysis by Alvin CORNEAL (TRI)
Football was the big winner in a game that had all that is best about the world's favourite sport. It was a match of contrasting footballing philosophies that pitted the hard-running and hard-tackling Australians against the sophisticated and experienced Italians.
The Socceroos impressed with their collective play and enjoyed the advantage in several areas of the field, although they were never able to convert this into clear-cut scoring opportunities. They also had the lion's share of possession, especially after the sending-off of Marco Materazzi. For their part, the Azzurri demonstrated their traditional strengths. In addition to a highly organised defence, their individual technical skill again shone out.
The match began cautiously but soon burst into life. The Aussies' were visibly superior, although the better scoring opportunities went to Marcello Lippi's side, with five clear-cut chances in the first half alone. Though Australia gave their all, it quickly became apparent that they lacked the individual technical proficiency of the Italians.
Following the red card, coach Lippi demonstrated that he is a master of his trade. He made decisive substitutions, changed his team's tactics and posed the Australians problems that they were unable to solve. His faultless strategy formed the basis for Italy's eventual victory.
A further crucial factor was the form of Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. The 28-year-old exuded remarkable composure, made no mistakes and nipped a number of potential Australian chances in the bud. That the Italian goal remained impregnable throughout was down in no small measure to the Juventus shot-stopper, and it was a logical decision to choose the 1.90m-keeper as the Budweiser Man of the Match.
Overall the Azzurri were deserved winners. Although at a numerical disadvantage they followed their tactical game to perfection and created the crucial breakthrough with the penalty award. In this nerve-wracking situation Francesco Totti kept his head and scored the winning goal.
Italy thus won through to the quarter-finals thanks to a masterful tactical performance by coach Lippi. But Australia can go home with their heads high. They had a great tournament and can be proud of both their performances in Germany and their terrific fans.