Wednesday 4 July 2018

Andiamo a Berlino (Beppe): Grosso. Del Piero. Final.

Fabio Grosso was crying as he wheeled away.  He whizzed past teammates trying to get a hold of him; he wagged his finger in total incredulity, as if to say no, no, it can't be.  Finally, he was reined in, a heap of Italian players exulting with him.

That goal ended Germany and put Italy in the Final.  That unlikely Grosso strike of perfect geometry finished off the World Cup hosts in Dortmund.

But Alessandro Del Piero made absolutely sure.  People will most likely remember Grosso's goal over Del Piero's.  But not me.

In my calculations, both goals had equal weight.  

Sure, Grosso's was technically the winner, but Del Piero's goal was six years in the making.  In the Euro2000 Final against France, he found himself twice in a position to finish the game off.  Twice he failed, and France eventually went on to win.

This time he didn't. 

Fabio Cannavaro intercepted the ball, passing to Francesco Totti, who found Alberto Gilardino, who provided a quick pass for a Del Piero surging into the penalty box.

What would he do with the ball? The finish looked difficult, but Del Piero managed it, curling the ball past a defeated, exasperated Jens Lehmann in the German goal.

It was 2-0. Del Piero unleashed in celebration.  This time Del Piero didn't miss.

It is those moments of redemption that stick out for me.  I remember Roberto Baggio's penalty against France in the 1998 World Cup quarterfinal shootout not because it was an exceptional penalty, but because of what Baggio did after scoring it.  

He looked at the crowd then lowered his eyes while raising his finger to his lips, as if to silence the voices that blared inside of him.  He was having a word with himself.  He had redeemed himself partially for the miss in the Final against Brazil four years earlier. Things made a little more sense again.  He still knew how to kick a ball in the right direction.

And so it was with Del Piero.  Maybe the Euro2000 Final was just a bitter, insignificant counterpoint in his mind as he celebrated, but the catharsis owed its intensity to the failure of six years earlier.  Del Piero was red with ecstatic rage.

Fabio Caressa yelled, "ANDIAMO A BERLINO Beppe!" to his co-commentator Giuseppe Bergomi.  We are going to Berlin, Beppe!

And so Gli Azzurri were.

On this day, twelve years ago.

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