June 26, 2006

Goals sparse as Italy, Ukraine advance

By Noah Barkin

BERLIN (Reuters) - Goals were not in abundance at the World
Cup finals on Monday.

It took Italy over 1-1/2 hours to score from the penalty
spot against Australia while Ukraine played for more than two
hours before winning a shootout against Switzerland in a
dreadfully dull game as they booked quarter-final places.

With seconds remaining in a goalless match played in
Kaiserslautern that seemed destined for extra time, Italian
defender Fabio Grosso dribbled into the box and tumbled over
Australian defender Lucas Neill, who had fallen to the ground.

Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo controversially
pointed to the penalty spot, causing hearts to sink down under
and eliciting delirious cheers from the thousands of Italian
fans packed into the Franz-Walter-Stadion.

Striker Francesco Totti, who got a mixed reception when he
came on as a substitute, stepped up and coolly drilled the ball
into the top corner right-hand of keeper Mark Schwarzer's goal.

It was the last kick of the match as Cantalejo blew the
final whistle seconds later, giving Italy, who played with 10
men for almost the entire second half, a 1-0 victory and a date
in Hamburg with Ukraine Friday.

"We suffered for long periods of the match, but in the end
it was the whole team that won this match because Australia
were a strong side," Totti said. "Now I think we can go a long
way in this tournament."

Italy will be favorites to beat the eastern Europeans, who
battled the Swiss through 120 minutes of scoreless, and mostly
colorless, soccer before winning in the shootout.


It was not difficult. The first three Swiss players missed
and Ukraine, after captain Andriy Shevchenko's kick was saved,
drilled three past Swiss goalkeeper Pascal Zuberbuehler.

His nerves frayed, Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin disappeared
to the dressing rooms for what he described as "Russian

"I couldn't take it anymore," Blokhin said.

The match itself was a very pedestrian affair with few real
chances crated by either side.

Shevchenko, who will play for English Premier League
champions Chelsea next season after seven stellar years at AC
Milan, headed down a 21st minute Maxim Kalinichenko free kick,
only to see the ball bounce up and off the bar.

Three minutes later Swiss top scorer Alex Frei struck a
free kick against the top of Oleksander Shovkovsky's post.

Switzerland exit the World Cup despite not having conceded
a single goal from open play in their four matches.

"It's terrible. It's so sad to lose this way but football
is not always fair," said Swiss defender Ludovic Magnin, who
was reduced to tears as he contemplated the second round loss.

For the Australians, who had not qualified for a World Cup
for 32 years, the last second loss was a stunning comedown.

"We're very disappointed because we were so close but I can
be very proud of the team," said their Dutch coach Guus

Italy and Ukraine join hosts Germany, Argentina, England
and Portugal in the last eight. The final two quarter-finalist
ties will be determined on Tuesday when Brazil meet Ghana in
Dortmund and France face Spain in Hanover.