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Late double puts Italy into final

story.grosso.jpg
Grosso celebrates his dramatic goal as Italy reached the World Cup final.

SPECIAL REPORT

DORTMUND, Germany -- Fabio Grosso and Alessandro del Piero grabbed two goals in the final two minutes of extra-time to puncture the German World Cup party and send Italy into the final with a stunning 2-0 win.

With penalties looming, Grosso curled a fantastic left foot drive into the corner.

As Germany desperately searched for a late equaliser, substitute Del Piero broke free to guide in the killer second.

Germany had been seeking their eighth appearance in the final where Italy were hoping for a sixth -- both countries having won the trophy three times.

The game began at a terrific tempo and it rarely dropped as each side passed sharply and probed forward.

Generally, however, the defenders were able to resist most forays, with captain Fabio Cannavaro again masterful at the heart of Italy's back four and Italy's Simone Perrotta and Germany's Bernd Schneider missing the best first-half chances.

The end-to-end approach continued after the break though neither side were able to muster the necessary precision to force the goalkeepers into serious action.

Sebastian Kehl, in for the suspended Torsten Frings, and Italy's Gennaro Gattuso were both dominant in screening their defences.

Gianluigi Buffon did have to move sharply to end a Miroslav Klose run and then block a sharp shot on the turn by Lukas Podolski as the home side began to turn the screw midway through the second period.

Coach Juergen Klinsmann threw on wide midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger and David Odonkor but neither man was able to make the difference and the game went into extra-time.

Germany had never beaten Italy in their four previous competitive matches including the 1982 World Cup final, but in the plus column they had never lost in Dortmund, winning 13 and drawing one of their 14 games there over 71 years.

If both records had remained intact it would have been penalties, where the Germans' World Cup record of four wins from four compared with the Italians' three out of three defeats would leave the hosts as favorites.

Perhaps with that in mind the Italians blasted out of the blocks in extra time and hit the woodwork twice in two minutes.

Substitute Alberto Gilardino carved through the retreating German defence but hit the post and then Gianluca Zambrotta smashed a 20-meter shot against the bar with Lehmann again helpless.

Podolski then headed wide from close in the last action of the first extra period.

"We are hugely disappointed (but) you can only compliment the team, they're a young team. It's amazing the spirit they showed, the character. They made a whole country really proud," said Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann.

"It's something very special to play a World Cup in your home country. We've a lot of young players with a lot of quality," he added.

Striker Miroslav Klose agreed, saying: "I think we can still be proud of this team. We have a lot of young players and I think we have a future.

"Both sides had shots on goal and chances to decide the match, but my compliments to the Italians. They played hard and scored a great goal."

"We had good chances to score," said Germany left back Philipp Lahm. "It's bitter to lose so close to the end of the match. We didn't lack any freshness.

"We were still fit, everyone could still run. There were two very good teams out there. There weren't many chances. It was a balanced match. We had our chances too.

"It's hard to find an explanation. We're naturally very disappointed. There is a lot of disappointment to lose here in Dortmund against Italy."

Del Piero said it was hard to describe his feelings. "It was fantastic to be part of a match like that.

"To win in their own backyard -- there aren't any words that describe what I'm feeling right now...

"I've had some criticism recently, but today I demonstrated that my desire is as great as anyone else's."

Italy coach Marcello Lippi added: "This is the realisation of a dream that has lasted a long time. If there was a team that was going to win this game, it was going to be us," he said.

"In my view we controlled the match. We played against 50,000 people... the German supporters were fantastic. We played a great game and we played better than Germany for the first 90 minutes.

"We scored two excellent goals... it was good that we avoided penalties because as you know, this is always a lottery."

Paying tribute to his team, Lippi said: "They should be proud of what they've done, proud to have respected all the love and enthusiasm that there is in Italy for them."

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