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Sunday, March 5, 2017
Without Brazil the semi-finals lost some of its shine, but there was nothing to be done. Italy and Poland met for a second time this championship and expectations were quite different: Italy was rapidly improving from match to match, Poland seemingly reached its highest possible point. Italy had the edge for two reasons: the first was having well rounded team, which found its own chemistry and was classier anyway. The second reason was the absent players: both teams had to be without key players – Gentile and Boniek, both missing the match for having two yellow cards. To a point, no really big deal, for surely Gentile would have been attached to Boniek and more than likely destroyed his game. But Italy had strong replacement for Gentile who in any case was not the organizer of the team play. Boniek was a big loss for Poland, which did not have another playmaker. True, Boniek was moved ahead in the previous games and that was a result of another problem: Szarmach was clearly out of form and Iwan got early injury. Suddenly, Poland had attacking problems, which Boniek compensated for before, but now there was nobody left. Lato was moved into his typical position in the attacking line and Ciolek was replaced Boniek, but he was not the needed playmaker. Bearzot worried about injuries as well – Colovatti and Tardelli were under question after the match with Brazil, but luckily for Bearzot both were fixed quickly and came on the field. Bergomi, who replaced Gentile, was attached as a personal marker to Lato – no matter what, Italy followed its iron strategy: mark closely the opponent's star and only after that pay attention to the other net. Defense first – and the initial Polish assault was quickly neutralized. Italy showed teeth after that and it became clear they were the stronger and much more dangerous team. Scoring opportunities emerged.
nd minute. The Italians more or less dominated the game, but Poland was still dangerous, especially Lato, who had excellent match. Unfortunately, there was little creativity in midfield and no matter what Lato tried, it was humanly impossible for him to both organize and finish attacks. Smolarek was nowhere to be seen, having his worst match at this championship – he was substituted by Kusto in the 79th minute, perhaps too late.
Paolo Rossi scored in the 22nd minute. The Italians more or less dominated the game, but Poland was still dangerous, especially Lato, who had excellent match. Unfortunately, there was little creativity in midfield and no matter what Lato tried, it was humanly impossible for him to both organize and finish attacks. Smolarek was nowhere to be seen, having his worst match at this championship – he was substituted by Kusto in the 79th minute, perhaps too late.
In the 74th minute Rossi scored his second goal and the match was practically over – the last minutes Italy obviously killed time, which the viewers naturally disliked. Poland tried to the end, but there was no way to compensate the absence of Boniek – in the second half the central defender Zmuda moved ahead to help the midfielders, which was more than risky, considering the lethal Italian strikers fed by Antognoni. Zoff also had a fine day, saving dangerous shots, but Poland clearly did not have smart enough player – traditionally, Zoff was shaky saving long shots and no Polish player tested his weakness. Italy won and rightly so 2-0 and reached the final. Perhaps the most important aspect of this victory was that it came relatively easy and Italy saved both physical and mental energy for the final.