Passion play not enough to save Italy

Italy 0 Germany 0

For the second night in succession a team invoked the memory of 1966, but this time the recollections were all bad. 30 years ago Italy crashed out of the World Cup at the group stage after an ignominious defeat to North Korea. On their return they were greeted by barrow loads of rotten tomatoes.

Last night they tumbled out of Euro 96, a gifted team undone by managerial misjudgement. If rotten tomatoes are all Arrigo Sacchi gets when he returns home, he can count himself fortunate. The Italian coach may feel his team were unlucky not to save themselves with a victory over an unadventurous Germany last night. In a sense he will be right, but the damage was done last week, when Italy lost to the Czech Republic.

That followed a raft of team changes by Sacchi and, though he restored his senior players to the team at Old Trafford last night, they could not recover the lost ground. It will not have escaped domestic notice that Sacchi, having left behind Gianluca Vialli, Roberto Baggio and Beppe Signori, saw his side go out for want of a single goal.

Where now for Sacchi and the Azzurri? He said he had not even thought about resigning and the ink is barely dry on a million dollar a year contract. But, for many Italians, that will not be worth a single lire.

For now Sacchi seems safe. Within minutes of their exit Antonio Matarrese, head of the Italian football federation, said Sacchi stays in his job as long as he does. Matarrese comes up for re-election in September.

Though Sacchi made errors, he was unlucky. Afterwards he said he thought Italy were "bewitched" in European Championship competition and, though that sounds bizarre, it looked that way after seven minutes last night.

That was when Pier Luigi Casiraghi caught Matthias Sammer in possession and advanced on goal. As Andreas Kopke came out he rounded him only for the goalkeeper to deliberately lift a leg and trip him.

That it was a penalty was beyond dispute, it also seemed as clear a scoring opportunity as could be. Yet Guy Goethals, the Belgian referee, not only failed to dismiss Kopke he did not even book him. It was an act of refereeing cowardice. Sacchi refused to comment on his leniency, Berti Vogts evaded the question.

As if Kopke's survival were not bad enough, he did not even have the decency to let the penalty in. Not that he had much choice, Gianfranco Zola's shot was so weak it suggested he was as overcome by the occasion as the referee. Kopke went on to be made the official man of the match, Zola went on to have a stinker. "This mistake cut his legs," said Sacchi.

Goethals did eventually send a German off, Thomas Strunz for his second bookable offence after 59 minutes. By then it was too late; Italy, paralysed by anxiety, had lost their early polish. Instead they repeatedly chose the wrong options, sending in aimless crosses or trying to dribble their way past a phalanx of defenders.

Then came a period of high drama and near farce as news spread that, 40 miles down the East Lancs Road, Russia had taken the lead against the Czechs. Sacchi, who had been flinging on substitutes and generally doing a fair impression of Graham Taylor's haunted final hours in Rotterdam, now waved his players back as the large Italian support celebrated.

Then, as suddenly as they had erupted, they fell silent - the Czechs had equalised. As the German supporters massed in the Warwick Road end started gloating, Sacchi frantically tried to lift his side. It was too late and, within minutes, they were slumped on the ground while their own supporters sat silently in disbelief.

Their team had shown passion, endeavour and organisation. It was not enough, when it mattered they did not have the imagination to break down a staunch German defence. Apart from the penalty they created few real chances, the best being a series of volleys from Diego Fuser. Germany, for their part, offered little and failed to trouble Angelo Peruzzi.

They did not need to. The favourites, who were watched by such luminaries as Chancellor Kohl and Boris Becker, march on to a quarter-final meeting with Croatia. The Azzurri are left to wonder at what might have been.

ITALY (4-4-2): Peruzzi (Juventus); Mussi (Parma), Costacurta (Milan), Maldini (Milan), Carboni (Roma); Fuser (Lazio), Albertini (Milan), Di Matteo (Lazio), Donadoni (New York/New Jersey MetroStars); Zola (Parma), Casiraghi (Lazio). Substitutes: Chiesa (Parma) for Di Matteo, 68; Torricelli (Juventus) for Carboni, 78; Di Livio (Juventus) for Fuser, 81.

GERMANY (1-4-3-2): Kopke (Eintracht Frankfurt); Sammer (Borussia Dortmund); Strunz (Bayern Munich), Helmer (Bayern Munich), Freund (Borussia Dortmund), Ziege (Bayern Munich); Hassler (Karlsruhe), Moller (Borussia Dortmund), Eilts (Werder Bremen); Klinsmann (Bayern Munich), Bobic (VfB Stuttgart). Substitute: Bode (Werder Bremen) for Moller, 89.

Referee: G Goethals (Belgium).

Bookings: Italy: Casiraghi. Germany: Strunz. Sending-off: Germany: Strunz.

Man of the match: Helmer. Attendance: 53,740.

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower