I’ve heard more than one person talk shit about Italy. Talk shit about their “diving” (as if they alone are guilty of that football sin). Talk shit about their draw with the USA and De Rossi’s elbow, as if De Rossi wasn’t publicly chstised for his foul by his coach, and the two redcarded American players weren’t defended by theirs. People talk shit about Totti’s last minute penalty kick against Australia, as if last-minute drama, glory and heroics weren’t why they turn into the WC in the first place. Regardless of what those dicks say, Italy is a class football team, demonstratively cpaable of last minute heroics, determination, and excitement. Eat that, naysayer dicks.
Chiara and I went to watch this game atour favorite pizzeria, Al Pachino. Chiara so fervent in her support that she donned her dirty blue Italia t-shirt to head out for the evening. I had no second thoughts about dirty fan attire.
We were expecting the place to be packed, but most were ordering take-out pizzas. We got our usual meals pizza (me: Canadian pizza, her: pizza bianca vegeteriana) beer and appetizers.
The first half of the game was characterized by some careful football, not alot of scoring opportunities from either side. The ref also let the play go, which made for some nice flow, even if most of took place on the outside of everybodies 18 yard box. It was inconsistent with the rest of the tournaments refereeing though, but maybe that directive to let the play flow has come down from on high, regardless it was nice to see more football, less whistles, less cards. Only three cards, all of them yellow.
The second half saw the play open up a little. But still the score was locked at nil-nil. Before the game Chiara had been pleading with me to assure her it wasn’t going to go to penalty shoot-out. Assure her I did, but heading into extra time my confidence waned. Speaking of waning confidence, Italy would most certainly not want a penalty shoot-out against Germany. Italy has never won a WC shoot-out, Germany has never lost. Odds against indeed.
If it was the fear driving them ok, but Italy surged in the extra frame. They hit a post in the 1st minute and a crossbar in the next minute. And it was attacking football the whole time. End to end action even. Germany was denied on at least one beautiful chance by hero Gigi Buffon, and Italy’s substitutes, Del Piero, Iaquinta and Gilardino (all attackers) certainly made life busy for Lehmann.
But to no avail. This game looked destiend for penalties. The Italian fans (all of us) in the pizzeria leaping to our feet when Italy entered the attacking zone, but the clock was winding down, just one minute of extra time left. Del Piero pulls up on the ball in the 18yard box, looks, and feeds the ball through to Grosso, and with a brilliant first-touch left-footed strike that Lehmann could only dive vainly at, Italy took the lead in the last minute of extra time! What drama. Wingback Grosso, who I’ve shit talked here before, struck in one of the strongest and most important goals of the tournament.
But all was not done, Germany, desperate to equalize pushed forward on Italy, but Italy grabbed the ball back and went streaking on their own into the germans zone. And GOT ANOTHER GOAL!
This time it was substitute Del Piero, with another beautiful unstoppable kick that Lehmann had no chance on. After a clever pass from substitute Gilardino.
The whistle blew and that’s the end of Germany’s World Cup hopes. But we’re all better off that way: they exceeded expectations, performed brilliantly, went all the way to the semi-finals, and lost (yes, a heartbreaker) to the better team. they can be proud.
And so can Italy. Once all the rejoicing and bill-paying was done at the pizzeria, Chiara and I joined the impromptu parade that seems to follow all Italy Worlc Cup victories. We honked, we drove, we took pictures. We went home. And we listened to the honking as we fell asleep. Next stop: THE FINALS!