No. 18: Gol Di Grosso! Gol Di Grosso! (Germany, 2006)
Is there a more gut-wrenching way to lose a game than in the very last minute of extra time?
As a supporter, by that point you naturally cast your mind towards a penalty shootout and what could potentially happen there. Managers do exactly the same, of course, often bringing on specialist penalty takers with a few minutes remaining in the extra 30 minutes.
So for a game to be snatched away from you at that late stage, after 120 minutes of toil, must be heartbreaking. Especially if it’s a World Cup semi-final.
In the 2006 World Cup, the hosts Germany met Italy in the the last-four at the Westfalenstadion in Dortmund. The game was 0-0 in regulation time, but it was far from drab; many would argue it is was the best goalless 90 minutes in the history of the game.
It was an encapsulating battle, with both sides creating and subsequently spurning a host of chances. A young Germany side were roared on by their fanatical supporters, and they looked galvanized by pure adrenaline in the opening exchanges.
In stark contrast, the unshakeably calm and collected Italians soaked up pressure and play on the break. But as the game wore on, it was the experience of Marcelo Lippi’s team that came to the fore, as the Azzurri finished the 90 minutes by far the stronger of the two sides.
That trend continued into extra-time, as a relatively raw German outfit began to look a little overwhelmed for the first time in the tournament. Alberto Gilardinho struck the post early in extra-time before Gianluca Zambrotta rattled one off the crossbar.
But with the clock ticking down into the 119th minute of the game, there was still time for a dramatic conclusion, as Italy forced a corner.
What happened in the final knockings off extra-time were some of the most dramatic in the history of the World Cup. The Italian commentary makes it all the more enthralling:
What happened next?
Italy went on to beat France in the final and secure their fourth World Cup triumph. Grosso again played a vital role again, as he scored the winning strike in the penalty shootout.
But those final few minutes in the semi-final are synonymous with Italy’s 2006 glory, and in many respects, they encapsulated the qualities of Lippi’s side.
The sublime reverse pass from Andrea Pirlo to set up Grosso, the magnificent front-foot defending from Fabio Cannavaro to set up the counter-attack and the incredible composure showcased by Alessandro Del Piero and Gilardinho, both of who were substitutes in the game.
To score a winner at that late stage was vital—we all know how good Germany are at penalties—and surely provided the team with enormous impetus ahead of the final.
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