Italy 4 Germany 1: Gilardino leaves German planning for finals in ruins

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The Independent Football

There is much for Jürgen Klinsmann to ponder when he heads for his family home in California. Last night, 100 days before Germany open the World Cup finals in Munich, Italy exposed his team as a bankrupt XI bereft of organisation and hope.

It was only a friendly but their last warm-up against major opposition was an ominous night for the tournament hosts. An Italian team which made light of Francesco Totti's absence inflicted Germany's heaviest defeat under Klinsmann - indeed, their heaviest since losing 5-1 in Munich to England in 2001. Italy's biggest ever win over Germany also equalled their biggest under Marcello Lippi.

Italy's front pairing of Luca Toni and Alberto Gilardino ran ragged a German defence in which Chelsea's Robert Huth looked out of his depth and behind which Arsenal's Jens Lehmann was exposed. Michael Ballack worked hard but was given the run-around in midfield and took it badly. Having dumped Daniele De Rossi on the turf he was booked for elbowing Fabio Cannavaro.

This is the closest venue to the beach resort of Viareggio, Lippi's home town, in which Italy are ever likely to play and the Italian coach could not have wished for a better homecoming. The portents had not been favourable and not just because of Totti's fractured ankle. These are dark days in calcio and the match was preceded by a message from German-born Pope Benedict XVI, calling on football supporters to renounce racist chanting and desist from hanging racist banners. The message was read out to a backdrop of catcalls and indifference, but ultimately applauded.

Add the sight of flares being thrown over 30ft fences into the pen holding the visiting fans, and macho posturing by both sets of wannabe hooligans and it was a relief when the football began, for Italy at least.

In the second minute Alessandro Del Piero floated in a free-kick, Lehmann was undone by a flick-on from Cannavaro and spilt the ball. Gilardino reacted first to score his sixth goal in his last 10 internationals.

Four minutes later a quickly taken free-kick sent Gilardino clear. He drew Lehmann, then squared for Toni to delight his home crowd with his seventh goal in 15 outings. The third, after Gianluigi Buffon had denied Sebastian Diesler in a rare German foray, came with Germany's defence in chaos following a half-cleared corner. De Rossi, unmarked, rose to head in Gilardino's headed pass.

With Germany playing for pride, and Italy easing up, the visitors made most of the second-half running but Italy flexed their class once more when Del Piero nodded in after 58 minutes following Camoranesi's lay-off from Gilardino's cross. Eventually Germany scored, Huth lashing in from a corner, but it was scant consolation.

Between them these two teams have won six tournaments and contested 12 finals. On this performance Italy have every prospect of adding to that record but Germany may struggle to survive the group stages.

"They gave us lesson," Klinsmann said, "but I'd rather we had it now than in the World Cup."

Italy (4-3-3): Buffon (Juventus); Zaccardo (Palermo), Nesta (Milan), Cannavaro (Juventus), Grosso (Palermo); Camoranesi (Juventus), Pirlo (Milan), De Rossi (Roma); Gilardino (Milan), Toni (Fiorentina), Del Piero (Juventus). Substitutes used: Materazzi (Internazionale) for Nesta, 79; Pasqual (Fiorentina) for Camoranesi, 87; Barone (Palermo) for Pirlo, 73; Perrotta (Roma) for Gilardino, 64; Iaquinta (Udinese) for Del Piero, 79.

Germany (4-4-2): Lehmann (Arsenal); Friedrich (Hertha Berlin), Mertesacker (Hanover), Huth (Chelsea), Lahm (Bayern Munich); Deisler (Bayern Munich), Frings (Werder Bremen), Ballack (Bayern Munich), Schneider (Bayer Leverkusen); Klose (Werder Bremen), Podolski (Cologne). Substitutes used: Borowski (Werder Bremen) for Frings, 66; Metzelder (Borussia Dortmund) for Mertesacker, h-t; Asamoah (Schalke 04) for Podolski, h-t.

Referee: E Iturralde Gonzalez (Spain).

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