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World Cup Day 26 - Late, late show sends Italy to the final

Undoubtedly the best game of the tournament, and one of the best footballing encounters I have seen in some time saw Italy go through as deserved winners thanks to two late goals as the dreaded spectre of penalties loomed.

Throwing off their tag as a defensive, negative side, the Italians had the best share of the possession, the quality attacks and, thanks to the chances in extra time, the clearer chances. At the final whistle - thanks to Lippi's substitutions, the Italians had two strikers on the field with Totti and del Piero in support, vindication for a side who finally looked to win a game in extra time as opposed to avoid defeat.

If anything, the extra-time exceeded the quality both sides showed during ninenty minutes. Perhaps in part to Italy striking the woodwork twice in the opening stage, and it set up a fantastic climax to an absorbing contest.

To a man, the Italians stood up tonight. Buffon proving he is without peer in the modern game, the full-back pairing of Zambrotta and Grosso excelling in defence and attack. Cannavaro, cool and composed at the back whilst the 'grafters' of Perrotta and Gattuso worked tirelessly.

For me though, the difference in the sides was Andrea Pirlo. In my preview I gave the Germany the edge in midfield (although it was written prior to Frings being suspended), but Ballack - whether suffering from injury or not, never imposed himself on the game and received little support from his colleagues.

Pirlo in contrast was bright, inventful and combative, both tracking back and joining in the attack and it was through ball to Fabio Grosso which decided the contest. Picking the ball up on the edge of the area he didn't panic, but took a touch to draw the defenders towards him before slipping the ball through to the advancing Grosso - whose finish should not be underestimated. It was a midfield performance which the supposed talents of Beckham, Lampard and Gerrard could only hope to have come near to.

Whilst Germany were shattered, Italy managed to add a second breaking clear with Gilardino, who laid on an advancing del Piero to cleverly finish and seal the win.

The Germans can consider themselves a little unlucky though. Whilst not showing the slick passing and inter-play of the Italians, they broke well throughout and created chances. However, they found Buffon equal to anything they threw at him. Lahm attcked well down the left and Podolski looked sharp, going close on a couple of occasions, but Miroslav Klose was largely anonymous and even the introduction of Oliver Neuville could not breach the Italian defence.

Ultimately though it was Italy's night. It took until the semi-final stage but we finally saw a game deserved of the world stage. A side who whilst equipped to defend, looked at all times to create chances and go forward.

And thankfully it wasn't decided on penalties. It didn't deserve to be.