THE ROAD TO GOLD: The fates of more than one contender for the goalscoring crown at the 2006 FIFA World Cup were decided from the penalty spot on a day when goals proved hard to come by in Germany.
Italy's Francesco Totti came off the bench to score his first goal at Germany 2006 from the penalty spot, while Swiss marksman Alexander Frei saw his hopes of success evaporate when his team were outgunned in a penalty shootout by Ukraine. One man to benefit from Switzerland's profligacy from the spot was Andriy Shevchenko , who remains in the competition despite seeing his spot-kick saved.
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Never too late for Totti
As with Netherlands striker Ruud van Nistelrooij the previous evening, the sight of Italy's Francesco Totti on the bench was a talking point as the Round of 16 meeting with Australia kicked off in Kaiserslautern. The Italian star enjoyed better fortune than the rueful Manchester United forward, however, coming on for veteran Alessandro Del Piero in the second half to end the Australians' hopes with one stroke of his right boot.
After entering the fray with 15 minutes to go, the totemic Totti kept his cool to slot home a penalty in the dying seconds of stoppage time to send the Italians through to the quarter-finals. It was all too much to bear for Gianluigi Buffon, who had to look away as his team-mate took the fateful kick, not that he need have worried.
"So far I've given it my all at the World Cup, but this goal is a fresh start for me," said the goalscorer, who paid an affectionate tribute to his son Christian by sucking his thumb in celebration of his winner. Bearing in mind the fact that Mario Kempes ended Argentina 1978 as top scorer despite failing to score in his first three games, Totti still has plenty of time to chase down the leaders and claim the coveted award.
Defeat for Australia, however, spelt the end of the road for Mark Viduka, Marco Bresciano, John Aloisi and the injured Herry Kewell, who all saw their hopes dashed by Totti's emphatic finish.
Tears and cheers
In the day's second game in Cologne, Ukraine's Shevchenko and Switzerland's Frei locked horns and, in the first half, both strikers almost added to their tallies of two goals only to be denied by the woodwork. Four minutes after Oleg Blokhin's captain had seen his glancing header come bouncing back off the crossbar, the Swiss number nine responded with a superb free-kick that beat Oleksandr Shovkovskyi only to rebound off the bar at the other end.
Following a goalless stalemate, it was the Ukraine captain who was all smiles at the end. Despite seeing his spot-kick saved in the shoot-out, Shevchenko's team-mates held their nerve to set up a quarter-final date with Italy and keep the Chelsea man's challenge alive. As for Frei, he was taken off nine minutes from time, and his bid for honours came to an end with his team-mates' failure to convert any of their three penalties.
Francesco Totti - 1