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Feast of football
By John May
If football is the beautiful game the World Cup semi-final between Italy and Germany was a super-model on a catwalk.
Dortmund's Westfalenstadion provided the perfect stage for what will go down as one of the classic World Cup encounters.
But what were the ingredients that made this such a feast?
Jurgen Klinsmann and Marcello Lippi have to take a lot of the credit.
Here were two coaches who knew what they were doing.
Unlike Sven-Goran Eriksson, they both had a plan, knew the players at their disposal intimately and set up their teams accordingly.
Also unlike Eriksson, they showed passion which would have transmitted onto the pitch as they kicked every ball with their players.
As a former striker, Klinsmann knows only one way to play, and that is to attack. His 4-4-2 system had proper wide midfielders and full-backs encouraged to bomb forward.
Lippi's team will do much to dismantle the reputation Italian football has suffered from of being suffocated by a defensive strait-jacket.
Sure, the best player on the pitch was Fabio Cannovaro and Italy's defence is as mean as ever.
But that curmudgeonly defence is now seen as a platform instead of a padlock and in Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso and Francesco Totti, Italy have midfielders full of mobility, pace and attacking intent.
It was no coincidence that the opening goal was scored by left-back Fabio Grosso, who along with Gianluca Zambrotta, his counterpart on the right, spent as much time in the German half of the pitch as his own.
Two more words on Lippi the coach - Marco Materazzi. A wayward liability at Everton, but Materazzi became a colossus for Italy under the Silver Fox.
It is almost facile to say there were always 22 good players on the pitch, but it is true.
Without exception, the outfield players all possessed a sublime first touch, could find a team-mate with a simple pass, and worked themselves space to receive a pass. Sounds easy, so why couldn't England do it?
The players also appeared to come into the game with the right attitude.
Perhaps operatic performances elsewhere had embarrassed them, but there were few if any signs of the Rada dramatics that have plagued other games in this World Cup.
Refreshingly, there was no sign of what is becoming the most hated gesture in football, the waving of a pretend card under the referee's nose.
Both sets of players wanted to play the game, and were happy to let the referee get on with his job.
Mexican referee Benito Archundio Tellez was a breath of fresh air. The Fifa nit-pickers will no doubt dissect his performance critically, but his preference for keeping his card pocket tightly buttoned got the right response from players (see above).
He rightly interpreted that in a contact sport not every foul is a booking, and not every tumble is a dive.
Whereas Russian referee Valentin Ivanov waved cards like a conjuror at a convention to stamp his authority when Portugal met Holland, Tellez used embarrassment.
You could almost hear players who tried it on being told: "For goodness sake, get up and get on with it!" Few wanted to risk being a conspicuous wet blanket to a flowing spectacle.
The three yellow cards he showed were correctly applied for tackles from behind, but he tried at all times to let the game flow.
WHO'S AFRAID OF GHOSTS?
Extra-time is so often an anti-climax. Fearful of losing, teams shut up shop, prepared to take their lumps in a penalty shoot-out.
But here were two teams who were patently spooked by the spectre of penalty shoot-outs.
Despite their record of never having lost one, the Germans did not want to trust to one.
And with Germany as the opposition, the Italians certainly didn't, so there was the almost unprecedented sight of two teams going hammer and tongs at each other in the extra 30 minutes.
A runaway train is hard to stop and both teams came into the semi-final with plenty of momentum behind them, again a tribute to the respective coaches.
Knowing he had to get an unconvinced nation behind him, Klinsmann got Germany got off to a faster start than Justin Gatlin. Germany rode the wave from there.
In contrast, like a good pasta sauce, Italy were heated gently to begin with, stirred at intervals and brought to the bubble at the momento perfetto.
Even the groundstaff played a part by watering the lushly grassed pitch before the game.
Whereas some early games in the tournament had the appearance of being played on a felt playing surface with a velcro-covered ball, the watering slickened up the pitch so the passes zipped about.