The current World Cup in Brazil is one of the better in living memory, although the action has subsided just a shade since it has entered the knockout stages. Usually, World Cups go the opposite way, with the best of the drama reserved when it is all-or-nothing for the teams involved. In 2006 that was definitely the case and on this day eight years ago the hosts Germany took on Italy in one of the best 0-0 draws you are likely to see.
Italy and Germany are two of the three most successful teams ever in international football, with seven wins between them and numerous other semi-final and final appearances. This was absolutely a clash of the titans and deep, deep into extra time the game was one in the most dramatic of fashions. It has gone down as one of the most memorable games from the Germany tournament.
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Although it was a much different Germany lineup, there were four players in the XI eight years ago who are in the squad this time around. Germany, since 2008, have been known as a youthful and energetic side who attack at pace, but in 2006 there were plenty of the old guard remaining with the likes of Michael Ballack and Jens Lehmann as mainstays in the team.
Italy have always been a team who tend to go with the experienced players in the big tournaments, and 2006 was no exception. They had Francesco Totti and Luca Toni leading their line, with a midfield containing the gritty Gennaro Gattuso and the creative Andrea Pirlo. On paper, there was not a lot to choose between these teams and that was exactly how the game panned out, too.
Throughout the 90 minutes the Italians, always so well-drilled defensively, made themselves very hard to beat and were brilliantly led by Fabio Cannavaro at the heart of the backline. Even so, they created the better attacking opportunities to begin with, as Toni had a shot blocked by Per Mertesacker, before Bernd Schneider fired a shot over the bar when he really should have at least tested Gianluigi Buffon.
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Germany started to get on top but they still could find no way past Buffon. The Italian goalkeeper saved first from Miroslav Klose and then from Lukas Podolski at point-blank range. Neither side could fashion a goal in a game that ebbed and flowed, and the same looked likely to continue in extra time with the Germans twice saved by the woodwork. First Alberto Gilardino struck the post before Gianluca Zambrotta crashed an effort from range against the bar.
The hosts came back with Podolski testing Buffon, but it was Italy who would have the reward. They were perhaps buoyed knowing Germany's record from spot kicks as they threw everything at the cause as the game ticked into the final minute of extra time. Finally, Pirlo played the ball through the defence to the marauding Fabio Grosso who finished brilliantly from a tight angle to open the scoring.
With German players and fans alike almost crushed, Italy made sure that they were to play in the final as Alessandro Del Piero clipped a wonderful finish beyond Lehmann on the counter to make it 2-0 and game over on 120 minutes. Germany were already home, but they were heading out, and Italy advanced to take on France in an all-European final.