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Italy Outclasses Ukraine, 3-0

Zambrotta scores early, Toni scores twice and Totti gets two assists as team's stellar defense shines.

July 01, 2006|From the Associated Press

HAMBURG, Germany — Italy was supposed to advance only as far as its spectacular defense could take it. Add some opportunistic offense, and the Azzurri are one game away from playing for the World Cup title.

Defender Gianluca Zambrotta scored an early goal, assisted on one and saved another, and Luca Toni scored goals nine minutes apart Friday as Italy beat newcomer Ukraine, 3-0, to set up a Tuesday semifinal match against host Germany.

The match was only in the sixth minute when Zambrotta ran down the right side, played a give-and-go with Francesco Totti and finished it off with a searing 20-yard left foot drive that was too much for goalkeeper Oleksandr Shovkosvskyi to stop.

In the 58th, Zambrotta kicked a ball off his own goal line to quash Ukraine's last hope for an upset. A minute later, Toni secured the victory with his first World Cup goal, and he added insurance in the 69th minute when he slid in Zambrotta's goalmouth pass.

"I wanted to score one. I managed two," Toni said. "It's a wonderful feeling."

Toni led the Italian league with 31 goals for Fiorentina last season, and Italy Coach Marcello Lippi said, "We couldn't understand why he hadn't scored until now, so it's great news."

Zambrotta flew home early in the week to visit former Juventus teammate Gianluca Pessotto, who is fighting for his life after falling from a window at the Italian club team's headquarters in Turin.

"Tonight our strength came from Gianluca, who we hope is able to come back from what he's gone through," Zambrotta said.

Zambrotta's goal, only his second in 56 games for Italy, put the Azzurri in the situation they have perfected over decades of World Cup success: defending a slender lead. Toni made sure there would be nothing to worry about this time.

Led by Totti, Italy sparkled with little backheels and clean, crisp passing combinations that Ukraine could never match.

After seven seasons in Italy's Serie A, Ukraine's lone star, Andriy Shevchenko, no longer held any secrets for Italy's expert defense and could not give his president, Victor Yushchenko, any reason to cheer in the stands. Afterward, the Chelsea-bound player went up to the Italian fans, applauded them and bowed in respect.

In the end, Ukraine -- the surprise team to make the quarterfinals in its first World Cup -- was finally exposed as a team that had too little to offer beyond a robust defense.

"I am disappointed that we are out, but this World Cup has been a great achievement for us," Ukraine Coach Oleg Blokhin said. "The class of the Italian team was just greater. They have better players."

And even when the Italian defense made a rare fumble, goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon slapped a header from Andriy Gusin onto the post in the 49th minute. World Cups are not won only on talent, though, and Italy was lucky when a header from Gusin crashed onto the bar in the 62nd.

Totti, who had two assists, regained his place in Italy's starting lineup against Ukraine, which fielded Artem Milevskiy in place of injured striker Andriy Voronin.

Italy went with a likely 4-4-1-1 lineup, with Totti behind Toni as the lone striker and Alberto Gilardino on the bench. Andrea Barzagli started his first World Cup game on defense, filling in for injured Alessandro Nesta and suspended Marco Materazzi.

Totti came on as a substitute late in the second-round game against Australia and scored the only goal in the final minute of the match. Lippi had benched him because he looked tired in the last first-round match against the Czech Republic.

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