By Paul Kennedy
The suspension of Torsten Frings has put a damper on German hopes of reaching the World Cup finals.
The German national team was flying to Dortmund on Monday for Tuesday's Germany-Italy semifinal when it received news that the 29-year-old defensive midfielder was banned for his part in the brawl that followed the shootout victory over Argentina on Friday -- a game in which he had played a key role in shutting down the potent Argentine attack.
"Torsten marked Riquelme out of the game against Argentina," Germany coachJuergen Klinsmann said of Frings' duel with Argentine playmaking star Juan Roman Riquelme.
Klinsmann's comments came before he was advised of Frings' suspension. FIFA had said on Sunday it was taking no action against any German player but cautioned that that could change if further evidence was uncovered. Italian television showed tape of Frings throwing a punch at Argentina forward Julio Ricardo Cruzin Friday's fracas. Frings was suspended for one game and will be on probation for the next six months and face at least another one-match ban if he has disciplinary problems during that period. He was also fined 5,000 Swiss francs ($4,085).
Frings' replacement is likely to be Werder Bremen teammate Tim Borowski, who started in the opener against Costa Rica in place of the injured Michael Ballack.
Italy and Germany have met in the World Cup four times. Their 1970 semifinal game in Mexico is considered the greatest World Cup game ever played. Italy won, 4-3, in overtime. Five of the seven goals came in the overtime. Italy beat West Germany, 3-1, to win the 1982 World Cup. Their other meetings, in 1962 and 1978, ended in 0-0 ties. Italy's 4-1 win over Germany in a friendly on March 1 was the lowpoint of Klinsmann's tenure as German national team coach.
Germany (4-4-2):1-Jens Lehmann (37 caps-0 goals); 3-Arne Friedrich (41-0), 21-Christoph Metzelder (26-0), 17-Per Mertesacker (28-1), 16-Philipp Lahm (23-2); 19-Bernd Schneider (69-1), 18-Tim Borowski (25-2), 13-Michael Ballack (69-31), 7-Bastian Schweinsteiger (33-7); 20-Lukas Podolski (30-15), 11-Miroslav Klose (60-29).
Italy (4-4-1-1): 1-Gianluigi Buffon (65 caps-0 goals); 19-Gianluca Zambrotta (56-2), 23-Marco Materazzi (30-1), 5-Fabio Cannavaro (98-1), 3-Fabio Grosso (21-1); 20-Simone Perrotta (29-1), 21-Andrea Pirlo (29-5), 8-Gennaro Gattuso (45-1), 16-Mauro Camoranesi (24-1); 10-Francesco Totti (56-9); 9-Luca Toni (22-8).
Three players on each team -- Germany's Arne Friedrich, Lukas Podolskiand David Odonkorand Italians Fabio Grosso, Gennaro Gattuso and Gianluca Zambrotta -- carry yellow cards into the semifinals and will be automatically suspended if they are cautioned again. In 2002, Ballack missed the final after collecting a second yellow card in the semifinal victory over South Korea.
Mexican referee Benito Archundia will officiate the Germany-Italy game.
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Rooney 'gobsmacked' by red card
England forward Wayne Rooneysays he didn't deliberately stomp on Portuguese defender Ricardo Carvalho in Saturday's quarterfinal match and was "gobsmacked" to be sent off.
(Gobsmacked? It's Liverpudlian for being astonished -- "smacked" in the "gob," i.e. mouth.)
"When the referee produced the red card I was amazed -- gobsmacked," Rooney said in a statement. "I want to say absolutely categorically that I did not intentionally put my foot down on Ricardo Carvalho."
Argentine referee Horacio Elizondoejected Rooney in the 62nd minute after treading on Carvalho's groin as he tried to disentangle himself from Carvalho's challenge. England fell to Portugal on penalty kicks after their game ended in a 0-0 tie.
Rooney denied British media reports that he was furious with Portugal winger Cristiano Ronaldo, his Manchester United teammate, who rushed 40 yards to Elizondo, apparently to make the case to suspend the England forward.
"I bear no ill feeling to Cristiano," Rooney added, "but am disappointed that he chose to get involved. I suppose I do, though, have to remember that on that particular occasion we were not teammates."