16.03.2015 18:15 - in: UCL S

      Heroes of the Westfalenstadion

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      Inspiration required for Wednesday night? Look no further than the World Cup stars who earned the Azzurri a 2006 semi-final triumph over Germany at Borussia Dortmund’s ground

      Juventus will be looking to draw inspiration from the Italian heroes of 2006 when they line up against Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday night at the Westfalenstadion.

      The 80,720-capacity arena, Germany’s largest football ground, provided the venue for a World Cup semi-final between Italy and the host nation on a dramatic night of football.

      An intimidating partisan atmosphere, built around the 24,000 most vociferous supporters who occupy the South Bank behind the goal, were out in force to roar their encouragement for Jurgen Klinsmann’s men, while every touch enjoyed by their Italian counterparts was accompanied by boos and whistles.

      Experienced heads in a heated atmosphere were needed, and former Juventus coach Marcello Lippi was able to count on a strong group of players featuring several past, present and future Bianconeri connections.

      In goal, the man who would go on to win the Yashin Award for the tournament’s best keeper: Gigi Buffon.

      Three of the backline had links to the black and white stripes: full-back Gianluca Zambrotta, future Ballon d’Or winner Fabio Cannavaro and Fabio Grosso, who now serves as the club’s Primavera coach after concluding his playing career in Turin at the end of the 2011/12 season.

      Setting the tempo at the heart of midfield was Andrea Pirlo, the playmaker who would join Juventus in 2011, with Mauro German Camoranesi and Simone Perrotta both providing energy and width on opposite wings.   

      In attack, the opposing presence of Luca Toni, a man who was no stranger to Bundesliga fans following three goal-filled years with Bayern Munich. Five seasons after the final, he would play 14 games for Juventus after joining the club in January 2011.

      On the bench were Andrea Barzagli, then with Palermo, club legend Alessandro Del Piero and Vincenzo Iaquinta, whose goalscoring exploits at Udinese earned him a subsequent move to Juventus in 2007.

      An intriguing – yet goalless – 90 minutes gave way to an electrifying half an hour of extra-time drama. Aware of the Germans’ strong record on penalty kicks, Lippi’s side, marshalled to perfection by central defender Cannavaro, became more adventurous in their approach, with substitute Alberto Gilardino's shot rebounding off the post and Zambrotta's drive hitting the bar.

      But there was still more to come from the hosts as Lukas Podolski, spearheading their attacking threat, missed a glorious chance to convert David Odonkor’s cross before forcing a superb one-handed save from Buffon.

      Just as the match appeared destined to go to spot-kicks, a brilliant threaded through ball from Pirlo picked out Grosso, whose delicious first-time strike curled past Jens Lehmann with just one minute remaining. 

      His unbridled joy was clear for all to see as he wheeled away in a celebration that evoked memories of Marco Tardelli’s cry in 1982’s World Cup final triumph over Spain.

      But it wasn’t over just yet. Desperate to force their way back into the affair with 60 seconds on the clock, Germany pushed forward but found their attack repelled by Cannavaro. 

      This proved to be a crucial moment, as the defender set Gilardino off and running in space. Having cut inside towards the centre of the box, he showed great awareness to pick out Del Piero’s run on the outside of him, leaving the Bianconeri talisman free to become the darling of the nation by securing a 2-0 success with a deft finish into the top corner. 

      The rest, as we know, is history. The same the Bianconeri want to keep writing on Wednesday, with the help of a few heroes from that night in Germany.

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