Italy – Australia 1-0

An injury-time penalty from substitute Francesco Totti took ten-man Italy past Australia and into the last eight of the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

Totti, a 75th-minute replacement for Alessandro Del Piero, drove the spot-kick high into the net after Fabio Grosso had gone down under a Lucas Neill challenge just seconds before the final whistle.

Italy had been reduced to ten men following Marco Materazzi’s red card five minutes into the second half and at that stage their followers might have feared a repeat of their loss to Guus Hiddink’s Korea Republic at this stage four years ago. Instead, Totti’s strike leaves the Azzurri looking forward to a quarter-final tie against either Switzerland or Ukraine in Hamburg on Friday.

As for Hiddink’s Australia team, they can head for home proud of their performance in Germany, having reached the Round of 16 on their first outing on the world stage in 32 years.

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Italy – USA 1-1

What an incredibly rough and tough game. USA coach Bruce Arena, after the heavy defeat against the Czechs, declared this game to be a war…and go to war they did…but the Italians were no pushovers physically.

The first twenty minutes had an American mark to them as they shut-out Italy very well indeed. But from a free-kick, Gilardino powered the ball past a hapless Keller. Only 5 minutes had passed before Zaccardo sliced into his own net to score an incredible own-goal. I’m sure that if he tried it another hundred times he wouldn’t manage to do it again.

Following that goal, De Rossi lost his head, elbowing McBride in the face while in a jump. Instant red, both for the Italian midfielder,and for Mc.Bride, who required three stiches before he could come on again.

A couple of minutes later, the USA continued its’ rough play, with Mastroeni entering into a recklessly wild two-footed lunge at Pirlo. There could be only one outcome…Off to the showers lad!!!

The second half started badly for the USA again. Eddie Pope sprang wildly at Totti, earning him another yellow card….this was way too late.He should have been sent off in the first half.

The match continued with a string of saves from Keller, who did his best to keep out the blues. His final save on Del Piero was nothing short of spectacular and miraculous.

A score of 1-1 then, with USA enjoying early possesion, but the Italians, ever so cynic, were able to contain the Americans, then hit on the counter-attack. The second half was of an Italian stamp, not being able to score though.

Italy – Czech Republic 2-0

Italy secured their qualification for the Round of 16 as Group E winners after beating the Czech Republic 2-0 in Hamburg on Thursday, 22 June 2006.

Marcello Lippi’s side will face the second-placed team from Group F in Kaiserslautern on 26 June. The Czechs, who head home early after finishing third in the group, played the whole second half with ten men after the dismissal of Jan Polak moments before the break following a second yellow card.

Marco Materazzi, an early replacement for the injured Alessandro Nesta, put the Azzurri on course for victory when he headed past Petr Cech in the 26th minute and his fellow substitute Filippo Inzaghi sealed the three points three minutes from the end.

Italy – Ghana 2-0

Finally, my favourites get to play the match. Had a few of my mates over to watch the match, and boy, was it a cracker. Surely one of the best so far. The emergence of the African nations in the football scene made this match more of a competitive one than should really be. In actual fact the Ghanans had an exceptionally strong midfield, with Essien, Appiah and Asamoha playing a holding game, but sadly for them, a weak forward line. ‘The Black Stars’ were effectively killed off by their one weakness in front of goal.

Italy on the other hand were rocked with another scandal, but I guess this only spurred them on to greater heights. Totti came back for the Azzurri instead of Del Piero, but despite playing some marvellous passes, he is still far from his brilliant form.

So it was up to Pirlo , and Perrotta, to provide the midfield genius. The Italians set up wave after wave of attacks, and it was only a matter of time before they scored….and what a goal it was from Pirlo.

He got the all on his left foot a good 10 metres out of the box, pulled the new Adidas ball to his right and unleashed a powerful curling kick right into the bottom corner of the net. WOW!

The Italians continued pressing, but they missed oh so many chances. Can’t let that happen to often in the World Cup. Totti was taken off as a precaution, and Iaquinta scored again late in the match as he latched on to a Del Piero pass that had been wrongly controlled by a Ghana defender. The joy on the Udinese man was a pleasure to watch.

So the Azzurri are there after all! ALE ALE ALE!

Official FIFA match report

World Cup fever

Finally it is here. I have waited so long for this to arrive. As a football fanatic I cannot be but overjoyed that we will be having 30 glorious days of football daily. So I will be blogging the matches the day after they have been played. It will not be a technical view of course, but rather the way I have seen the matches. Chin up mates and may the best team win…

Of course Brasil will be the favourites. Why? Simply because they enjoy the game so much. You can see the Italians putting in a good show, but since they are notoriously slow starters, they will have to sruggle to win their group, which means they would evade Brasil and probably come up against the hard-nuts of Croatia. Surely these two groups have been drawn rather harshly. But that is the luck of the draw.

Some groups have such easy matches that it is astonishing ow that could happen. But as happens with every lottery, it is not what you wish for.