Left fullback Fabio Grosso, Italy’s final minute hero from their second round match against Australia was again the man to break the hearts of a nation when he struck an excellent curling shot from inside the box, beating German keeper Jens Lehmann’s outstretched arm with a penalty shoot-out just minutes away.

Extra time substitute Alessandro Del Piero sealed victory for Italy with the final kick of the match when he finished off a counter attack movement after the Germans had pushed forward in search of an equaliser.

Italy have been involved in three penalty shoot-outs in World Cup history losing all three, and their players would have been well aware of this statistic going deep into extra time against a German side that had just emerged from a successful shoot-out against Argentina.

The Azzurri played better than their opponents in the first half, however after the break they seemed to go into their shell with Germany getting back into the contest.

However, the match stats told the story of the hosts’ night, recording just two shots on target in 120 minutes – both coming from striker Lukas Podolski.

At the beginning of extra time substitute striker Alberto Gilardino snuck a shot through which hit the upright after beating Lehmann at the near post, and just one minute later defender Gianluca Zambrotta hit a well struck shot from a corner which crashed into the crossbar with Lehmann beaten again.

It's over: German players console
one another after losing to Italy

Late in the first period of extra time Cologne player Podolski had a free header at the near post which he sent wide, and then hit a shot straight at Italian keepr Gianluca Buffon who saved with one palm in the 112th minute.

Then in the 118th minute Italy’s playmaker Andrea Pirlo forced Lehmann into a save from a long range shot, and from the resulting corner the AC Milan midfielder was again involved, slotting a pass through to an unmarked Grosso who hit a first time left foot shot sending the Italians into rapture and the Germans into despair.

Germany tried hard but were unable to penetrate the last line of defence with Italian captain Fabio Canavarro having an outstanding match.

Earlier, Pirlo had a shot on target in the 78th minute from long range which Arsenal keeper Lehmann had covered easily.

In the 82nd minute Germany received a free kick at the top of the box with Michael Ballack continuing his poor shooting form for the tournament, sending his shot high and wide.

In the first half, Italy were the first team to settle and they had the better of the early exchanges, with Germany getting off to a nervous start in front of a parochial home crowd.

A German supporter shows the
anticipation and agony of the night

In the 4th minute, Francesco Totti blasted a 35 yard free kick, which was easily covered by Lehmann while from another set piece in the 24th minute Pirlo floated in a free kick which Marco Materazzi was inches away from connecting with when in good goal scoring position.

Germany’s best chance of the half came in the 34th minute when Pirlo lost the ball in midfield before Miroslav Klose fed Bernd Schneider into the box, however his shot fizzed over Gianluigi Buffon’s fingertips, and the crossbar.

It was a disappointing end for the Germans who many thought could go all the way to the final with home support growing to euphoric levels, however their tenacious teamwork and the generous crowd support weren’t enough to break down the more skilled and experienced Italians.

Italy are now into their 6th World Cup final and are chasing their 4th title, as they await either Portugal or France in Berlin.