Totti scores late penalty to lead Italy over Australia 1-0

In a World Cup increasingly influenced by referees, a questionable penalty sent Italy into the quarterfinals over a surprisingly stout Australia with a 1-0 victory Monday.

The Aussies played even with the favored Italians, holding them scoreless into the third minute of injury time.

But with 12 seconds left, Lucas Neill was called for fouling Fabio Grosso a judgment that first had the Socceroos howling in protest, then shaking their heads in bitter defeat.

Grosso was dribbling a few strides from the goalmouth when Neill slid in front of him. The Italian cut in Neill's direction and tried to leap clear, but tripped over the defender's back.

Moments later, Francesco Totti sent his penalty kick high to the right of goalkeeper Mark Schwanzer, who guessed correctly but couldn't stretch far enough to stop the ball.

"I was calm and tranquil. I knew I was capable of scoring," Totti said. "It's my first World Cup goal, in the 93rd minute. It's different from all the others."

With no time to restart, the Italians started celebrating.

"I don't know what I am feeling at the moment," Australia midfielder Tim Cahill said, "but I suppose it's disbelief."

Italy plays Friday in the quarterfinals against either Switzerland or Ukraine.

"We suffered but we gave them no chances," Italy coach Marcello Lippi said. "This is an incredible joy."

It was another match filled with yellow cards and one ejection _ a growing trend at the World Cup. The red card against Marco Materazzi was the 24th in this tournament, already a record with 11 matches to go.

Spanish referee Luis Medina's ejection gave the Australians a man advantage for the last 40 minutes of the game, but the Socceroos couldn't capitalize. His final call, however, was pounced on by Italy.

Totti, initially instructed by the referee to respot the ball, kept his cool and powered it in for the win.

Australia winger Harry Kewell, the Man of the Match in the 2-2 draw with Croatia, missed the game with a recurring groin problem. He supported himself with crutches as he watched from the bench.

Although the Australians pressured from the start, three-time champion Italy created the better chances with Luca Toni coming close to scoring four times in the first half.

He headed narrowly wide from eight meters (yards) in the third minute from Alessandro Del Piero's left wing cross, forced Schwarzer to save his shot with his legs, had another shot blocked by defender Craig Moore and sent another header past the post.

Strike partner Alberto Gilardino had a shot pushed over the bar by Schwarzer and Australia defender Scott Chipperfield blocked a goalbound drive by Simone Perrotta.

At the other end, Mark Viduka's powerful header went straight at Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who also smothered a low drive from Chipperfield.

"We did a great job and Australia can be proud," Australia coach Guus Hiddink said. "I hope now that, with the performance of the national team, something will be established in Australian football." reports AP.


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Author`s name: Editorial Team