Italy Defeats Germany 2-0 in Extra Time With a scandal tearing apart the national sport back home, the Italians kept on plowing through soccer's premier event Tuesday night with a dramatic win over Germany.
NPR logo Italy Defeats Germany 2-0 in Extra Time

Italy Defeats Germany 2-0 in Extra Time

DORTMUND, Germany (AP) - Maybe the World Cup is the easy part for Italy.

With scandal tearing apart the national sport back home, the Italians kept plowing through soccer's premier event Tuesday night with a last-minute win just when it seemed a penalty shootout was inevitable.

Fabio Grosso twisted a left-footed shot into the far side of the net in the 119th minute, then Alessandro Del Piero clinched the 2-0 win a minute later with a counterattacking goal as the Germans pressed desperately to equalize.

"We deserved it," Grosso said. "We have a great group. We've beaten some very good teams. Now we're going to celebrate reaching the final with all our well-wishers."

The swiftness of the goals was stunning - Germany had pressured for the game's last hour and slowly stretched the tight Italian defense. But Italy, which has allowed only an own-goal in six games, held off the hosts and crushed their hopes for a fourth title.

Now the Italians head to Berlin for Sunday's final in search of a fourth trophy of their own. They'll play the winner of Wednesday's Portugal-France match.

"I can honestly say Italy deserved to win," Italy coach Marcelo Lippi said. "We controlled the play more than Germany did and, in the end, we got these two great goals, which allowed us to avoid the roulette of a penalty shootout."

In handing the Germans their first loss in 15 games at Dortmund, the Azzurri also remained undefeated in five World Cup meetings with Germany - this was their third win to go with two draws.

Until the extra time, it seemed Germany might find the net. As Italy tired, Germany found room where before there was none, creating space -- and chances.

It never paid off. And by the beginning of extra time, it was Italy who threatened, once hitting the post, once the crossbar.

Then, out of nowhere, came the deciding goal.

Italy's reserves rushed onto the field after Grosso took a brilliant tap pass from Andrea Pirlo in the box and curled his shot beyond the leaping reach of goalkeeper Jens Lehmann and just inside the post.

With the hosts pushing forward in desperation, the Italians struck again on a two-on-one break. Del Piero finished with a right-footed blast into the top of the net just before the whistle sounded.

The Italians, who last won the World Cup in 1982, mobbed each other and rolled around on the field as their fans in a sliver of the stadium jumped in delight, waving the green, white and red flags in ecstasy.

"I have to say that we have beaten a very strong team," Del Piero said. "They could have scored first on a couple of occasions. But we've done it. It's a fantastic feeling."

What the Italians have faced off the field could easily have sapped them of their resolve. Their domestic league match-fixing scandal reached new heights Tuesday when a prosecutor urged the demotion of four Serie A teams for which many of Italy's players star. Every Italian team member plays club ball at home -- and 13 of the 23 play for the topflight teams under investigation.

While the Italians celebrated, the Germans collapsed in dismay.

"It's bitter to lose like that," Germany defender Philipp Lahm said. "We had set ourselves the target of reaching the semifinals, but once you've reached that you want to go all the way."

The home crowd lingered to cheer their heroes, who were supposed to be too young and inexperienced to challenge for this trophy. Instead, Juergen Klinsmann's entertaining squad performed superbly, and the crowd sang to them and chanted their names and "Deutschland, Deutschland" after the match. Captain Michael Ballack and several others cried as they left the field, defeated but unashamed.

They just couldn't finish the heady Italians, whose technical mastery, particularly on defense, was surpassing.

Italy is unbeaten in 24 games as it heads to its first World Cup title game since losing to Brazil in 1994.

Germany will play in the third-place game Saturday in Stuttgart, hardly where it planned to be.

"The boys are sitting there and have a bitter pill to swallow," said Klinsmann, who won the 1990 World Cup played in Italy. "It hurts terribly."