#WorldCupAtHome: Azzurri late show dashes German dreams
24 Apr 2020
- #WorldCupAtHome relives a 2006 thriller between Germany and Italy
- An engrossing semi-final was decided late in extra time
- Grosso the hero for Italy as hosts crashed out
The hosts of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ were living a dream, having advanced to the semi-finals in impressive fashion, their hopes of a fourth world title growing by the day. Waiting for them in the last four was an Italy side that had been in less commanding form but looked solid nonetheless. Relying on their rock-like defence once more, the Italians would blunt the threat posed by Jurgen Klinsmann’s vibrant, attack-minded side before striking late on to win an absorbing encounter.
Germany 0-2 Italy AET
4 July 2006 | Signal Iduna Park, Dortmund
Goalscorers: Italy: Fabio Grosso (119’), Alessandro Del Piero (120’+1)
Line-ups: Germany: Jens Lehmann, Arne Friedrich, Per Mertesacker, Christoph Metzelder, Philipp Lahm, Sebastian Kehl, Michael Ballack (c), Tim Borowski (Bastian Schweinsteiger, 73’), Bernd Schneider (David Odonkor, 83’), Miroslav Klose (Oliver Neuville, 111’), Lukas Podolski
Italy: Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Grosso, Fabio Cannavaro (c), Marco Materazzi, Gianluca Zambrotta, Gennaro Gattuso, Simone Perrotta (Alessandro Del Piero, 104), Andrea Pirlo, Mauro Camoranesi (Vincenzo Iaquinta, 91’), Francesco Totti, Luca Toni (Alberto Gilardino, 74’)
Three-time World Cup champions Germany had gone 16 years without lifting the Trophy, while Italy’s wait for a fourth title stretched back 24 years to Spain 1982. Only Brazil, with five titles to their name, have enjoyed more success in the competition than these two European rivals.
La Nazionale had history on their side, having gone unbeaten in their four previous World Cup meetings with Die Mannschaft, which included an epic semi-final at Mexico 1970 and the 1982 Final. The tournament hosts nevertheless had the advantage of playing at their Dortmund fortress, where their record was: played 14, won 14. Urged on by a capacity crowd of 65,000, the Germans were full of confidence, having beaten Argentina on penalties in the quarter-finals and played some progressive, attacking football en route to the last four. For their part, Italy had eased into the semis courtesy of a 3-0 win over Ukraine.
A notable absentee: While Ballack, Klose and Podolski were the figureheads of an ultra-attacking German line-up, Torsten Frings was the man who set the tempo in midfield, working tirelessly to shield the defence and build play from the back. His suspension left Klinsmann with no option but to change his system and draft Borowski and Kehl into his starting XI. Frings’ absence may or may not have been a contributing factor in Germany’s defeat, but the fact remains that without him they lacked their usual verve up front and enjoyed only 43 per cent possession to Italy’s 57 per cent.
Defences hold firm: With 118 minutes on the clock and little to choose between the sides, penalties looked inevitable. The Germans had shown they knew how to defend, an area in which the Italians confirmed their expertise, thanks in the main to the commanding Cannavaro and the dependable Materazzi, who was proving a more-than-able deputy for the injured Alessandro Nesta. Meanwhile, Klose and Toni were virtually anonymous in attack. Schneider, Borowski and Ballack all missed chances for Germany, as did Perrotta and Grosso for Italy. Buffon denied Podolski on two occasions, while Gilardino hit the post after a fine run. There seemed no way the deadlock would be broken.
Italy find the key: With a minute of extra time remaining, an Italy corner was half-cleared to Pirlo on the edge of the box. After considering his options, the gifted playmaker slipped the ball into space behind three unsuspecting defenders. Though no one in the crowd or among the millions watching was on the same wavelength as Pirlo, team-mate Grosso was. Running on to ball, he curled a left-footed shot past Lehmann and into the far corner. No sooner did the Germans kick-off again than Cannavaro regained possession and played it to Iaquinta. His through-ball found Gilardino, who took the ball into the box before playing the perfect reverse pass in Del Piero's path. Expertly guiding the ball into the other corner of the net, the Italy forward killed off any lingering German hopes.
After putting paid to Germany’s dreams, Grosso was Italy’s hero again in the Final a few days later, scoring the penalty that gave them victory over France. Following the full-back’s exploits against the hosts and the decisive late spot-kick he had won in the last-16 victory over Australia, coach Marcello Lippi knew who he wanted his fifth penalty taker to be. "You’re the last-minute man," Lippi told him. Moments later, Grosso secured World Cup number four for Italy.
️What they said
"When I saw Andrea with the ball at his feet, I knew there was a good chance it would come to me. There are times when he’s not even looking at you but just knows when to make the pass. I had a feeling it was going to happen and happen it did."
Italy defender Fabio Grosso
“It was an amazing match and a tough one too. We came up against a very strong team that could easily have taken the lead. We had more desire than them though, a greater will to win."
Italy forward Alessandro Del Piero
“It was a dream come true for us. We dominated the game and were the better side. The players excelled themselves and didn’t put a foot wrong. They really did what I wanted them to do and they did it with a lot of energy too. I’m so proud of this team."
Italy coach Marcello Lippi
“It was such a tight game and both sides had their chances in normal time. Fair play to the Italians, though. They scored two great goals at the end to beat us. We’re very disappointed but we can be proud of our team. We’ve got a lot of very young players."
Germany forward Miroslav Klose
"To lose like that at the end of extra time is very hard to swallow. We came up against a good side. There weren’t that many chances for either team and there wasn’t much between us."
Germany defender Philipp Lahm
What happened next
Italy went on to meet France in the Final in Berlin. Following another suspenseful two hours of football, during which Zinedine Zidane produced his customary brilliance and one moment of madness, Gli Azzurri claimed their fourth world title, thanks in no small part to assured performances from Buffon, Cannavaro and Materazzi. In the meantime, the Germans dried their tears and beat Portugal to third place. Their time would come, though. Eight years later in Brazil, the likes of Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Klose and Podolski finally got their hands on football’s most coveted prize.