Italy cruised onto the World Cuo semi-finals with an easy 3-1 win over Ukraine.
Two second-half goals from Luca Toni along with a Gianluca Zambrotta first-half effort sealed the win for Marcello Lipp’s team. They will now meet hosts Germany for a place in the final.
Italy defender Andrea Barzagli came into the side with Alessandro Nesta injured and Marco Materazzi suspended, while Francesco Totti replaced Alessandro Del Piero and Mauro Camoranesi came in for Alberto Gilardino.
Ukraine made three changes, with Artem Milevskiy coming in up front for the injured Andriy Voronin. Vladislav Vashchuk and Andriy Vorobey were left out, with Viacheslav Sviderskiy and Andriy Rusol coming in for Leh Blokhin’s team.
The first chance of the game was created by Camoranesi who burst through the centre of the pitch before unleashing a weak shot that went just wide of the target.
It was a warning to Ukraine, and two minutes later they paid the price for ignoring it. Zambrotta strode through the midfield unchallenged and unleashed a shot from 25 yards that nestled in the back of the net. Shovkovskiy in the Ukrainian goal should have saved the effort, but he appeared to misjudge the pace of the ball and Italy were one nil up.
In terms of the match being a spectacle, it was the last thing needed, because this workmanlike Ukrainian side looked like they lacked the wherewithal to trouble Italy. Other than a couple of speculative long range efforts, Blokhin’s side were unable to contrive any openings in the first 45 minutes, and, at the interval, the remaining half looked like it would be their last of the tournament.
Immediately after the restart Ukraine had their best move of the match which resulted in Barzagli slicing his clearance across the face of the Italian goal. Moments later Buffon was called into action for the first time in the match when he dived low down to tip Gusin’s header past the post.
Whatever they had drunk in their half time cup of tea appeared to have worked for the Ukrainians and just before the hour mark they should have drawn level. Gusev’s close range shot was blocked by Buffon and the rebound fell to Kalinichenko whose effort was cleared off the line by Zambrotta.
However, the ball was swept up the other end and Totti picked up Luca Toni who headed in from five yards to make it 2-0 to Italy.
The second goal should have killed the game off, but Ukraine, displaying more endeavour than they managed in the entire first half, came close again when Kalinichenko struck the bar with a header.
Italy’s third was not long in coming when Zambrotta, who had been Italy’s outstanding performer on the night, cut in from the left and slid the ball to Toni who added his second of the night.
Ukrane had exceeded their expectations in reaching the last eight and will return home satisfied that they have made their mark on a major tournament.
For Italy, the real work begins. They now meet Germany for a place in the final, and given all the distractions they have suffered in the build-up to the tournament, they may start to believe that this is going to be their year.
Italy: Buffon, Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Barzagli, Grosso, Perrotta, Pirlo, Gattuso, Camoranesi, Toni, Totti.
Subs used: Barone 68 (for Pirlo), Oddo 68 (for Camoranesi), Zaccardo 76 (for Gattuso
Ukraine: Shovkovskiy, Nesmachniy, Sviderskiy, Rusol, Tymoschuk, Shelayev, Gusev, Gusin, Kalinichenko, Milevskiy, Shevchenko.
Subs used: Vorobey 20 (for Sviderskiy),Vashchuk 45 (for Rusol), Byelik 72 (Milevskiy).
Bookings: Sviderskiy 16, Kalinichenko 21, Milevskiy 67
Referee: Frank de Bleeckere (Belgium).
Italy: Zambrotta 6
Scorers: Klose 80, Toni 59, 69