Ukraine provided no match for the Italian powerhouse. Germany awaits in the semifinals!
In the past, Italy has had Germany's number but as hosts Germany have some great advantages. Including a never beaten run where they play in Dortmund!
But, for now, let us relish the victory over Ukraine and the masterful play by Zambrotta, Gattuso and Luca Toni!
Forza Gli Azzurri!!!!
Ecstatic! My reaction to Totti hammering home a deciding penalty kick in the last minute of stoppage time can only be accurately described by my brother - "I felt sorry for you cuz I thought you were about to cry."
Say what you will, once again poor officiating marked this game although it didn't have to. A ridiculously harsh penalty that gave Materazzi the send off with a direct red certainly gave the tough Aussies what they needed. However, the stingy Italian defense shut down every effort the Aussies gave and ultimately a very late break by Fabio Grosso in the Aussie box in which he faked and avoided a tackle on one Socceroo defender and then almost avoided another - his right foot was free while his left got caught on the body of a second sliding Aussie defender. The penalty was awarded and Totti calmly slotted it through.
Let the hating on Italians ensue. It's nice to sit back and listen to the namecalling from embittered fans - I'll take it if it means the Azzurri keep progressing, exorcising demons along the way. Hey, call it revenge against Guus Hiddink's VERY fortunate Koreans in '02. And Totti was there to put the ultimate nail in the coffin.
The call in the box was a hard one to make. I agree. The defender missed the ball but impeded an unobstructed path to the goal (it was just Grosso and the Aussie GK at that point). Tough call to make but ultimately you can't let something like that go.
And, to let everyone know, I feel no sympathy for Guus Hiddink - especially after his postgame comments:
'Even when Materazzi was on the park we controlled parts of the game and
then when we were sent off, we assumed full control,' he said.
'Then we fully dominated against a team that is much more highly ranked
than us, before we got caught out in the last minute and if you see the replay
there is no doubt it wasn't a penalty.'
In a game of few chances, Hiddink said his team at least tried to play
attacking, creative football - in stark contrast to the Italians.
'Italy just tried to play on the counter-attack and we tried to play
another style, a style that is more attractive for the spectators to see but
that (counter-attacking) is their style,' he said.
'The Italians wanted to play defensively, they love to play with a wall
(across the back) - they don't think about attractive football, they just think
about the result.'
Hiddink - you're an idiot. Creative football? You had a man advantage for basically the entire second half and only managed 4 shots on goal. Count them! 4! Who cares what type of football a team plays in terms of attack if it means winning at the end! "They just think about the result". Of course we do you idiot! What are we supposed to be thinking about, solely entertainment??
Think about that one - you have 4 years to sit on it. Let's just say payback kinda sucks, doesn't it?
PLEASE! I can't tell you how much constant bemoaning from these fans as if the U.S. is the only squad to suffer from bad calls. I'm not going to point out all the counterpoints to such nonsense as it takes quite the energy out of me arguing with hardheads who couldn't tell you the difference between a free kick and a penalty kick but feel the need to inform the informed about what warrants a red or yellow card. SO, I will let a soccer analyst/columnist list the American's problems going into and proceeding through their very short stint in this World Cup.
The writing was on the wall people! The U.S. wasn't good enough and you can credit that to a number of things. It's unfortunate that they play in CONCACAF - football's equivalent to the CFL. Hopefully in the future they can step up their game. I hope they do!
If the penalty call had not been botched so badly.
If the red card had not been pulled so quickly.
If the shots that hit the post had just gone in.
If the goal had not been called for offsides.
"If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you," Rudyard Kipling once wrote, obviously prophesying the fans' reaction to the U.S. team's efforts in the 2006 World Cup.
All the maybes aren't flying this June, though.
After all, it's not as though the U.S. couldn't see what was coming.
So the country couldn't seem to get the benefit of a call. That's not new at the World Cup.
One also might take notice of the fact that the U.S. isn't very popular in Europe, either.
Of course, world events shouldn't affect a sporting event, but the clue of the ripple effect probably could be found even before the tournament kicked off. Not a single American referee made the FIFA cut for the World Cup. American referees have been at more World Cups than American teams have; the sudden omission was not a good sign.
More telling was the assumption by many that the World Cup automatically would kick up the intensity and focus of the players. It happened in 2002, but that kind of lightning is hard to bottle.
The Americans had a tepid offense in many games leading up to the World Cup. They tied Jamaica, a team that didn't even make the final round of World Cup qualifying, 1-1. They barely defeated Poland, 1-0 on a fluky goal. They lost to Morocco, a team that didn't qualify for the Cup, by the same score. Only another bizarre goal saved the team from being shut out against Germany in a 4-1 trouncing.
There were excuses every time, though. The best players weren't present. Training had drained energy from the team. One slipup had changed a game the U.S. dominated. If the U.S. team had nothing else completely ready to go at the World Cup, the justifications had been rehearsed thoroughly.
Unlike, for example, Landon Donovan's preparation at forward. One might think that if Donovan was going to spend half of the World Cup in that position, at least one of the lead-up games would have featured the team using him there as practice for the real thing.
There also was more negativity in the air at the World Cup -- and not just because having U.S. practices blanketed in security made them a depressing reminder of the need for such measures.
Coach Bruce Arena continually was trying to put out the fires started by player comments. First, there was DaMarcus Beasley's about how much he disliked the secretiveness and uncertainty of the lineup. Then, there was Bobby Convey's statement that the players were unsure of their roles. Eddie Johnson's declaration comparing the World Cup to a war didn't help matters, either.
On the other hand, perhaps the most surprising proclamations were those by Arena himself. After the team's first game, a comprehensive defeat by the Czech Republic, he was sharply critical of certain players, apparently oblivious to the risk of further eroding their confidence while group play was still ongoing.
He then curtly established that the players were fine with his statements, even though Beasley had taken issue with them. Arena blamed the media for overblowing a rift that wasn't there, but it was hard to verify such a claim when media access to Beasley was denied completely.
Despite the U.S. complaints about cards and calls, a valid point was brought up when Arena was asked directly whether he had planned beforehand to prepare his players for how tightly the games were going to be called. FIFA had trumpeted its intention to crack down on cynical fouls and even had set up a special page on its Web site, complete with photos of examples of plays referees had been instructed to card.
Arena admitted he did not show the Web page to his players, saying instead that he expected them to be "professional."
Indeed, it's not as if Pablo Mastroeni didn't know it was incumbent on him to avoid harsh tackles unless they were completely necessary.
Even before the tournament, Oguchi Onyewu was aware that his size makes him a bit of a card target.
Perhaps it was too much trouble, taking into account the factors and coming up with a game plan to help mitigate the circumstances of anti-U.S. perception, the track record of weak scoring, the issues of discretion concerning player performance and the reality of FIFA's new standards on fouls.
Perhaps such signals were lost in the flush of confidence given by the team's supremacy over CONCACAF rivals.
"I would tend to think that if it's not broken, don't fix it," Arena said during a news conference. He was referring to Ghana's potential strategy, but the statement revealed something of his own sentiments, as well.
A more proactive approach might have served the U.S. squad better.
Few might have been willing to admit how vulnerable the U.S. team was, though. Without any superstars or credible depth, the one major asset the Americans possess is their cohesive teamwork. If that is compromised in any way, other elements waver.
The signs were there, the writing on the wall, but as with that Web page, no one bothered to see it.
So much for the #2 ranked team in the world! A well deserved victory over a team that simply felt overwhelmed. It's unfortunate that Nedved and Co. had to dip out of the tournament like they did but big show of support to Ghana - the virtual dark horses to make it out of the real Group of Death!
What possessed Mastroeni to slide in with both feet up 70+ yards away from his goal? Furthermore, why would Pope slide from behind when he already had a yellow in hand? I think the U.S. team spent as much time slide tackling as the Italians found themselves on the ground. Call it diving or whatever you'd like, but the U.S. needs to learn how to play a type of defense that doesn't call for a sliding challenge on every attempt.
Now both teams seemed tied together in their fate. The U.S. needs the Italians to beat the Czech in order for them to realistically advance with a win against Ghana. Ghana is without their 2 goal scorers, the U.S. is without their 2 defenders. It should be an interesting game.
I leave you with an 8 minute clip that recaps the Italy - U.S. game. Look closely at the fouls and the type of play that the U.S. is in engaging in. In fact, watch the progression of Gilardino's goal. Behind Gilardino you can see Onyewu practically tackling an Italian player who is trying to make his way towards the ball. Physical? Yes. Plenty of fouls? Definitely. Blaming the refs? Whining.
"Moggi told us we will win"
World Cup opening matches have a tendency to spring surprises, especially when a traditionally good team meets a debutant, but in Italy's case the fear of the unknown was never going to be as strong as the chance to at last put the events of the past month, which may have changed the face of Italian football forever, behind.