Germany 0, Italy 0 (AET : 0-2)

After hitting the wordwork twice in first two minutes of extra time, Italy exploded with two late goals by Fabio Grosso and Alessandro del Piero in the waning moments of the 2nd extra session, eliminating Germany and vaulting the Azzuri into next Sunday’s World Cup final.

The semi-final seemed destined to end on penalties before Grosso (above, far left) sent a curling shot off a feed from Andrea Pirlo past the diving Jens Lehmann.

Moments later, Del Piero easily beat Lehman after Germany — trying desperately for a last-second equalizer — left little in the way of defense in their half of the pitch.

Germany’s Lukas Podolski had his side’s best scoring chance of the match, his header from a David Odonkor cross expertly turned away by Gianluigi Buffon’s one-handed save halfway thru the two extra sessions.

While I’m not nearly as quick to hail today’s tilt as the the Match Of The Tournament — said honor goes to a piano falling out of a midtown Manhattan office building and Alexi Lalas’ head — the final 30 minutes were terrific, and reduced the Curt Schilling/Casey Fossum duel to that much more TiVo fodder. If the gentlemen below have a slightly different take, well, great minds don’t always think alike.

Italy were outstanding: the defence was marshalled amazingly by Cannavaro, both Gattuso and Pirlo were tireless in the middle and the forwards did their bit at the end. German hearts are broken and they don’t deserve to lose either. They were strong and adventurous but came up short, Podolski missing a gilt-edged chance at the end of the first half of extra time. Penalties were looming, and a definite German win, but Italy edged it. One of the best matches of the World Cup, but the hosts are out.Tom Dart, The Times

Well it looks like Italy™s 4 forward attack is pretty tough to contain. And with Cannavaro and Buffon at the back absolutely refusing to concede a goal, why not attack like mad? A remarkable win, but Italy looked the better team throughout to me and it was well deserved. Rob Mackey, New York Times

Germany are out of their own World Cup, but they can hold their heads high, unlike some other spineless blowhards I could mention. But won’t. Most of this Italian team may be going home to Serie B and Serie C clubs next season as a result of all the skullduggery that’s afoot in their league at the moment, but they could well be going home with World Cup winners’ medals in their pockets. The Guardian, Barry Ingle

Fabio Capello has jumped off the sinking ship that is Juventus. He’s not been linked to the coaching vacancy at Red Bull New York, but give it time. On a related note, Stevie Francis would like to invite Youri Djorkaeff to a Super Bowl party next January.