Italy set up semifinal date with Germany

For a team that barely broke a sweat in their 3-0 win over Ukraine tonight, the Italians showed that they will be as hard to beat as Argentina were for the Germans.

Italy, like Argentina, prefer the short-passing game, although they play at a faster and a more physical place than the South Americans. It was this aspect of their game that impressed the most as they converted less possession into lightening fast attacks on the Ukraine goal. And with Cannavaro and Buffon in the back five, there was little danger of Ukraine scoring.

Gattuso has been simply awesome for Italy in the middle of the park, and despite picking up some heavy tackles in the early exchanges he stayed in the thick of things until his substitution in the 77th minute, the job well and truly done. Despite Luca Toni’s two goals Gattuso will be Italy’s most valuable player (along with Cannavaro) for this match, and with Ballack injured, the midfield battle may well be won by Italy in Dortmund.

Italy celebrate in the 2006 World Cup

Italy celebrate on their way to a comfortable 3-0 win over hapless Ukraine.

The Italians have been branded lucky, but then again luck played less of a part in the second round game against Australia than Grosso’s appalling dive. And throughout the game, Perrotta, Toni, Totti and Camoranesi went down far too easily under challenges, often without any contact. You can argue that it’s part of their game in Italy, but despite the ‘fair play’ objective of the 2006 World Cup FIFA have failed to stamp out diving / simulation. Cheating has no place in the game, and you cannot expect players to be saints at all times.

Still, the best football of this tournament is yet to come. Despite the excitement, hard-fought contests (even after-match celebrations have been marred by fighting) and long-range goals, there’s a feeling that something is missing. One of England, Portugal, Brazil and France will have to do something really special tomorrow or in the semi finals – Germany may be fan favorites but watching them (or the diving Italians) win the final on the 9th will be a shame.

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