Where do I begin.....119 stalemated minutes, broken by a sublime left foot...I think we'll break down this Germany vs. Italy semi-final by characters involved. Here we go:
First the venue - Dortmund: Home to Borrussia Dortmund, and the largest Venue in the cup....oh ya Germany had 13 wins and 1 tie in National Team matches played here.
Lippi and Klinsmann - not only my 2 favorite coaches in the Cup, but I think the 2 best as well. Lippi has instilled a team spirit I have never seen in the National team, truly all for one. The talent has always been at a coaches disposal, the effort and unity has not. Juergen has been the breath of fresh air the Cup needed. While old blow hards, like his boss Beckenbauer, were yapping about non-issues, Jurgen installed the most potent attacking force in the Cup. A team willing to win with 4 while giving up 2, PLUS he did not let them shrink under the immense pressure of being the hosts, or hide behind their youth. They simply are playing hard, attacking football and winning.
Gigi Buffon: Earlier I stated that Peter Cech of the Czechs was the best goal keeper in the world, I am horribly wrong. Gigi Buffon dislocated his shoulder early in the domestic season this year and only took part in the last few months. His form was solid but indifferent by his standards. There is no one else I would trust more in between the pipes, but while peerless several years ago, he was seemingly more mortal as of late. Italy has now played 6 games, 1 goal has been scored against this man, and his OWN player scored it. Truly a wall in the back for the boys and his calm and composure helps even keep Matterazzi in line...most of the time. For the record Gianluigi Buffon IS THE BEST GOALKEEPER IN THE WORLD. I owed him a shouting correction.
Which brings us to the unheralded man of this entire Cup....Fabio Cannavarro - the captain. Simply put he is having the best tournament of any player at his position. Think of the challenges for him in this Cup. First he is Captain and is point person to the media about the Italian Serie A scandal. Second The best central defender in the world, Allessandro Nesta, has been hurt half the games. His first sub crazy Matterazzi has scored him a goal and been sent off. he has played with 3 DIFFERENT center back partners in 6 games. And been perfect in all of them. He held Klose AND Podolski to limited action today, and when they had space their angles were limited to things Gigi could handle. Bravo Captain.
Gattuso - probably his best game in the Cup - played his usual hard nosed defense, but often took pressure off Pirlo as first outlet option to the defense - the best 2 way performance I have seen him put in for a while. Harassed Ballack into a backseat day.
Pirlo, the maestro: was actually the Bud man of the match - deserved. Sometimes as much as we want him to control tempo all day long he can tire, for whatever reason he looked like the freshest player on the pitch in extra time. His delivery to Grosso for the game winner was simply perfect - perfect placement, perfect speed, perfect time. Yet another reason to root for France tomorrow - to see Zizou and Pirlo on the field together.
Del Piero: He has matured so much as a teammate with the struggles through the last few years at Juve. My early random prediction on the scandal is if Italy can win the Cup - he will stay with Juve through the lower ranks and help them back to the top flight. His pace and ingenuity in extra time were the difference. Forcing mistakes and making things happen. Even Lippi was happy for him personally on scoring the second goal. He has earned a start in the Final over Camo after that display.
Gilardino: He did not get on the score sheet, and I wouldn't start him over Toni but he played a magnificent game in his substitution role. He set up Pirlo for a left footed cracker that forced the corner leading to the first goal...I know that seems like a stretch, but his unselfish play upfront was responsible for both goals. After all he was the man who cut inside and laid the ball off for Del Piero to cooly finish...I see ya working for the team Gila.
The Azzurri - a 2-0 win over Germany, in Germany, in a stadium where they had never lost..simply outstanding. See ya Sunday.
by the way...I just finsished watching extra time for the 3rd time...Forza Italia...