July 5, 2006
Blue cheers for AzzuriItaly fashions dramatic victory
By TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun
DORTMUND, Germany -- There was barely a blue shirt in the stands but Italians all over the world would be living it like they were there, on one of the most stunning, staggering nights in the history of the World Cup.
One minute remained in the second 15-minute overtime period and 75,000 fans in Dortmund, where Germany had never lost, were braced for the Que Sera, Sera song and a penalty kick shootout.
Then it happened. Goal. Fabio Grosso.
And just as the host nation was trying to deal with that, it happened again. Goal. Alessandro Del Piero.
That put an exclamation point on it, not that it really needed one. It was the old double whammy. But, quick, name one from somewhere on a stage as big as this that can compare?
With two teams that have spent most of their soccer history specializing in keeping the ball out of their own net, Italy and Germany looked like they could play until Sunday's final in Berlin without getting a goal.
LOTS OF CHANCES
It wasn't like there weren't chances. It's just that there was no finish and it didn't look like there ever would be.
But suddenly two were in the back of the net when you least expected it, and Italy was going for a fourth World Cup title against the winner of France-Portugal today, and parades were in progress in Little Italys around the world including Toronto, where the largest Italian population lives outside of Italy. But whatever those scenes were like, they were in complete contrast to the scene here.
When Grosso scored in the 119th minute and Del Piero in the 120th, one of the great scenes in one of the great grounds in the game turned into stunned silence.
The German players, the almost entirely white-shirted German crowd and hundreds of thousands more, who'd secured positions to watch the game on big screens around the country, were left similarly stunned.
Here they finally stood and staggered, completely sobered by the conclusion, without sound, into the night.
"Every one of them is hugely disappointed," said coach Juergen Klinsmann of his players. But he could have been speaking for everyone in the country who brought out the Germany flags to wave at this event like they'd never allowed themselves to do to this extent since the Second World War.
"They all had a big dream. They all had a big goal. This dream didn't come true," he added, in English, in his post-game interview room appearance.
"The boys had a bitter pill to swallow. It hurts terribly. But they made a whole country really proud.
"It's something very special to play a World Cup in your own country. It's been a huge success for us as a team and as a nation. It showed a whole new German face to the world."
What happens to this World Cup with Germany out will become a second-day story, but Italy became finalists again in the 12-year cycle they maintain - 1970, 1982, 1994 and 2006.
"That's how it goes," said Klins-mann. "That's what makes football so fantastic."
It was hard not to get swept up in the moment of the spine-tingling Azzurri victory, best described by substitute Del Piero to reporters when it was over.
"It was fantastic to be a part of a match like that," he said. "To win in their own backyard. There aren't any words to describe what I'm feeling right now."
Coach Marcello Lippi had plenty of words.
"This is the realization of a dream that lasted a long time. If there was a team that was going to win this game it was going to be us.
"We played against 50,000 people," he said, doing a lousy job of counting the house."The German supporters were fantastic.
"We scored two exciting goals. It was good to avoid the penalty kicks at the end. That's always a lottery. We were tired at the end. We risked a bit but not too much."
It was Andrea Pirlo, who would be named man of the match, who drilled one from 25 metres out that German keeper Jens Lehmann deflected wide. On the resulting corner kick, Pirlo took the ball just outside the box and fed Grosso for his left-footer heard around the world. Del Piero scored on the transition coming off the final Germany push.
It was one of those special moments in sport to experience. And try it from the fourth row in this very special stadium, just a few seats off the centre line, directly behind the Italy bench. That's where FIFA, for some reason, ticketed me for this one.
It was a night I'll never forget. And eat your hearts out, Italians everywhere.