World Cup 2006: Italy’s biblical semi-final victory over Germany

Every time I hear “You’ll Never Walk Alone” – the most legendary of all football songs – I am immediately reminded of Italy’s epic victory over Germany at the 2006 World Cup.

I feel very fortunate to have attended that Bible meeting at the Westfalenstadion in Dortmund. It is the greatest football experience of my life – and I doubt it will ever be surpassed.

- Advertisement -

I traveled to Germany with my friend Giuseppe to follow Italy’s journey. We had already been to all of the Azzurri’s previous five matches en route to the semi-finals.

We had seen Daniele De Rossi rearrange Brian McBride’s face. We had been attacked by angry Aussies in the street after Fabio Grosso’s “dive” in the last sixteen. And we had mistakenly booked a luxury hotel in the middle of Hamburg’s red-light district before the quarter-final victory over Ukraine. Big mistake!

But watching Italy beat Germany from Dortmund’s famous south terrace, ‘The Yellow Wall’, was of course the most memorable encounter of all.

It was a gripping contest that ebbed and flowed for 120 fascinating minutes. It was end-to-end stuff for large parts of the game – attacking defenses with gaping holes in the center of midfield.

Italy finished the match with four strikers, had 11 shots on target and hit the woodwork twice. Germany, meanwhile, had great chances of their own – with Gianluigi Buffon making superb saves from Bernd Schneider and Lukas Podolski, who also headed a great opportunity wide.

Somehow, heading into the final minute of overtime, the score was still scoreless.

Italy got a corner at the goal we were behind. I turned to Giuseppe and told him not to look. It had become a running joke during the tournament that it was lucky when he closed his eyes. Marco Materazzi had headed home Italy’s opener against the Czech Republic from a corner which Giuseppe got his head down. I also prevented him from seeing Francesco Totti’s penalty winner against Australia.

“For a few seconds I felt like I was in an altered state of consciousness. We were surrounded by German fans and an astonishing silence filled almost the entire stadium.”

Can this trick work a third time?

The corner found Andrea Pirlo on the edge of the area. The Milan playmaker delivered a sumptuous no-look pass to Grosso inside the box on the right.

Grosso, the surprise star of the tournament, hit a curling shot the first time. As soon as he hit the ball I immediately jumped up to celebrate. We were just in line, diagonally, from Grosso. It was immediately clear from the shot line that it was destined for the corner of the net.

For a few seconds I felt like I was in an altered state of consciousness. We were surrounded by German fans and an astonishing silence filled almost the entire stadium.

On the pitch, Italy’s players and staff celebrated as if they had just won the World Cup. Grosso ran off miming his own version of “Tardelli’s Scream” – the famous celebration by Marco Tardelli when he scored Italy’s second goal in the 1982 World Cup final against West Germany.

Italy only had seconds to hang on now. Germany poured forward looking for an equaliser. But Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro, who had put on a defensive clinic in this game with interception and block after interception and block, thwarted a final German attack.

The “Berlin Wall”, as he became known, allowed Totti and then Alberto Gilardino to set up Alessandro Del Piero to creep home a second with the last kick of the game.

Game over.

Italy 2, Germany 0.

Del Piero scores against Germany / Alex Livesey/GettyImages

The referee blew for full time and immediately ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ was played around the stadium.

A very poignant song at the best of times, that was the moment it really hit home for all the German fans around us that their World Cup dream was over. Not only children and women but many grown men broke down in tears.

Many Italians around the world did, I’m sure. It had been such an emotional rollercoaster with such a dramatic ending.

Italy was now in the World Cup final. We didn’t go to Berlin as we had only bought tickets up to and including the semi. But even watching the Azzurri lift the cup couldn’t have beaten this mystical experience in Dortmund.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept

Privacy & Cookies Policy