Italy advances to World Cup semifinals with 3-0 win over Ukraine

Luca Toni helped put Italy into the World Cup semifinals with two goals in his team's 3-0 win over Ukraine on Friday.

Defender Gianluca Zambrotta scored the first goal in the sixth minute from about 20 meters (yards) after exchanging passes with Francesco Totti.

In the 58th, Zambrotta cleared the ball off his own goal line to stop Ukraine's best chance. A minute later, Toni scored his first goal with a header. The Italy striker added a second when he slid in Zambrotta's pass in the 69th minute.

Italy will face Germany in the semifinals on Tuesday in Dortmund. The host team beat Argentina 4-2 in a shootout after a 1-1 draw through extra time.

After flying home early in the week to visit former Juventus teammate Gianluca Pessotto, who is fighting for his life after falling from a window, Zambrotta ran down the right side.

He set up a one-two with Totti and finished it off with a left foot drive which goalkeeper Oleksandr Shovkosvskyi got a hand on but couldn't keep out. It was only his second goal in 56 games for Italy.

"Tonight our strength came from Gianluca, who we hope is able to come back from what he's gone through," Zambrotta said.

The goal put the Azzurri in the situation they have perfected over decades of World Cup success defending a slender lead. After a few narrow escapes, Toni made sure Italy did not have to worry until the final whistle.

After seven seasons in Serie A, Ukraine striker Andriy Shevchenko no longer held any secrets for Italy's expert defense and could not give his president Victor Yushchenko any reason to cheer in the stands.

"We couldn't understand why he hadn't scored until now so it's great news," Italy coach Marcello Lippi said.

In the end, Ukraine was finally found out as a team which had too little to offer beyond a robust defense. Still, during its maiden World Cup run, it was the surprise team to make the quarterfinals.

"I am disappointed that we are out but this World Cup has been a great achievement for us," Ukraine coach Oleh Blokhin said.

And even when the Italian defense fumbled on a rare occasion, there was Gianluigi Buffon slapping a header from Andriy Gusin onto the post in the 49th minute. World Cups are not only won on talent and Italy was lucky when a header from Andriy Gusin crashed onto the bar in the 62nd.

Qualification for the semifinals offered a welcome reprieve for Italy, which has been embroiled in a match-fixing scandal at home. Pessotto, appointed Juventus team manager due to the match-fixing scandal, was in a drug-induced coma Friday when Zambrotta scored.

After the match, Italy's players unfurled an Italian tricolor with the inscription "Pessotto we are with you," reports AP.

O.Ch.