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Why Alessandro Del Piero's Strike Vs Germany 10 Years Ago Is One Of My Favourite Ever Goals

Why Alessandro Del Piero's Strike Vs Germany 10 Years Ago Is One Of My Favourite Ever Goals
By Gavan Casey Updated

You could have been forgiven for believing you were watching remastered footage of Paolo Rossi's 1982 World Cup final celebration had you tuned in for the final moments of Italy's 2006 World Cup semi-final defeat of Germany.

With less than two minutes remaining in extra time, Fabio Grosso, whose 11-year career to that juncture had seen him line out for non-league clubs such as Renato Curi and Chieti Calcio before impressive Serie A ventures with Perugia and Palermo, swept a curling finish past the lengthy frame of Jens Lehmann. Fists clenched, head maniacally shaking from side to side, Italy's Cinderella Man had fired his nation to the World Cup final.

It was an iconic World Cup goal - one which vanquished the host nation, who had never lost in Dortmund - and one which encapsulated the Italians' two-fingered salute to those who had brought to question their quality prior to the tournament. The 17/2 outsiders were headed for Berlin, and the left-back pinpointed as their weakest link had produced a sumptuous finish to put them there.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWujLMH1N8w

As the balloon popped in the Westfalenstadion, the equally iconic goal which followed was perhaps somewhat lost to the vacuum of both despair and euphoria. A decade later, in terms of World Cup folklore, Italy's 2-0 victory is remembered as the game of 'that Grosso goal'. I'll instead forever remember it as the time when Alessandro Del Piero evoked a guttural, Gary Neville-type howl from my vocal chords - an involuntary reaction which frightened the shite out of my mother in the kitchen who, in Ireland's absence, had presumed I had no allegiance to whichever teams were playing on the telly.

As Germany strove fruitlessly for an equaliser that would have forced penalties, the imperious Fabio Cannavaro - who months later would become the first defender since Franz Beckenbauer to be crowned FIFA World Player of the Year - bulldozed his way out of the Italian box. Following up his own headed clearance, the 32-year-old stormed through a hesitant Lucas Podolski before Francesco Totti prevented him from losing the arse altogether, automatically taking over in possession as his captain entered nosebleed territory.

It spoke to both the frenetic nature of the game and subsequent fatigue, and the sheer rapidity of the counter-attack that it took Totti, Gianluca Zambrotta and friends what seemed like an eternity to swarm Del Piero, whose fresher legs had propelled him towards the enraptured Italian fans in the West Stand.

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The 31-year-old Juventus striker, on as a substitute, was in essence a walking metaphor for a perceptively ageing Italy squad; a former footballing heavyweight long-since past his illustrious best. A big name if no longer a major player in tournaments.

His instep finish from Alberto Gilardino's disguised pass made little or no sense to my 13-year-old eyes. It seemed to be going wide until it didn't.

Cannavaro. Totti. Gilardino. Del Piero. Golazo.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3h7hHr8TPHg

It was the aesthetics of the goal - the contrasting angles of Gilardino's almost perversely cloaked pass into the on-rushing former talisman, and the subsequent right-footed finish where any number of lesser talents would simply have tonked it back across goal with their left. It was Cannavaro's Paul McGrath-esque rearguard action and burst towards halfway, where he almost mowed down a fellow great in Totti who nonchalantly took control of the situation. It was the context of the goal so soon after Grosso's; 'We're not just going to hang on, here - we're going to turn you over on your own patch'.

And the wild celebrations from an outfit that had been written off from all corners, most notably their homeland, prior to a tournament in which Germany - if nowhere near as formidable as the modern-day outfit - were naturally fancied on home soil.

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I had been a football fan for six or seven years prior. I watched it religiously. But in a sense, the ending to that game - and the second goal in particular - was my introduction to football: the beautiful game that I had heard so many of my elders recall with an air of melancholy as I munched on Bacon Fries and sipped on 7Up, or played Pokémon Red on my Game Boy Color. Be it through Channel 4 (and later Eurosport) or mere word of mouth, I had lapped up tales of 'Calcio'. The aforementioned Paolo Rossi. The legendary captain Dino Zoff. The teak-tough Franco Baresi. The great Italian teams - most notably the class of '82. But I was yet to see an iconic Italian national team in my lifetime, and so the stories remained just so.

Then came the 'has-beens' of 2006 who, with their domestic league in disarray, went rogue to the narrative. I suppose I was finally old enough to get it - those rare moments where you simply lose yourself to the sport, as opposed to simply losing your mind when your own team scores a stoppage time winner. Although I couldn't explain that to my mother.


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