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  • 02:38 PM ET  06.13
Three thoughts after Italy’s dramatic 1-1 tie with Romania in Zurich:

Man of the Match: Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. One day after Poland’s Artur Boruc had set the bar for goalies in Euro 2008, the amazing Buffon was even better, saving the Italians’ pancetta in almost every way imaginable. Gigi made an epic save on Adrian Mutu’s 81st-minute penalty attempt, diving to his left and parrying Mutu’s drive (first with his right hand and then his right foot). The world’s best goalkeeper (sorry, Petr Cech) also came up huge on two screaming Romanian shots in the first half by Mutu (who was in alone on goal) and by Gabriel Tamas (on a low-driving free kick). With only one point Italy is going to need a win against France to have any shot of qualifying, but Buffon at least allowed that to happen. Now if we can only figure out why Gigi wears that black bandanna around his neck ...

Inconsistent refereeing is becoming a huge problem. For the second straight game a referee whistled an outrageous late penalty for contact in the box on a set-piece attempt. This time it was Norwegian ref Tom Henning Ovrebo nabbing Italy’s Christian Panucci for having his arms around Romanian forward Daniel Niculae. I understand that the penalty-box scrum on set pieces is a problem, but this is your typical big-stage over-reaction. If you’re a player (or a fan, for that matter), all you want is consistency from referees, and to have the standard change like this in the middle of a major tournament just isn’t right. Referees can affect the outcome in soccer more than in any other sport I can think of, and for games to be decided by off-the-ball penalties that don’t even involve clear goal-scoring chances hurts the sport—and what’s shaping up to be a memorable tournament. If you ask me, justice was served when Buffon saved the resulting penalty.

Italy got a raw deal on what should have been a first-half goal. Speaking of the refs, they botched another call when Luca Toni’s first-half goal was disallowed for being offside. Romania’s Cosmin Contra was clearly keeping Toni onside when Gianluca Zambrotta made contact with the ball on his cross to Toni. Here’s my question: if we can put a man on the Moon, why can’t we design some sort of laser-guided system that uses computer chips in the ball and on the players’ jerseys to know beyond the shadow of a doubt whether a player is offside or not. It shouldn’t be that hard, should it?

Through-balls: Italy’s outside backs were an attacking force in the first half with left-sided Fabio Grosso and right-sided Zambrotta delivering a blizzard of dangerous crosses, but they had much less impact in the second half, especially Grosso. If you want to see a big difference between the world powers and say, the U.S., count how many crosses the Yanks get off in a game sometime. There won’t be many ... Sweet knock-down header by Zambrotta; too bad it was in his own box to Mutu for the Romanian goal ... Many thanks to commenter DMB27 for providing a link helping pinpoint the origin of the term Group of Death. The man credited for coining the term was Uruguayan coach Omar Borrás at the draw for the 1986 World Cup when his team drew West Germany, Denmark and Scotland. Thanks also to Blog pal Pedro Arellano, who notes that the press began using the term Group of Death only a year after thousands had died in a terrible earthquake in Mexico City. Not exactly the best choice of words, journos ... Italian coach Roberto Donadoni is most definitely on the hot seat, but hey, things could be worse: He could still be playing for the MetroStars. Check out a link to Johnette Howard’s 1997 feature on Donadoni from the SI Vault ... Donadoni also came up when I was interviewing Paolo Maldini a couple years ago about why foreign stars want to come to MLS. “They want to have the experience of living here, and there's no stress,” Maldini told me. “I spoke with [former Milan teammate] Donadoni about playing for the MetroStars, and he said it was good: He got to play golf all day.” ... Separated at Birth: Christian Panucci and a Victory-era Sylvester Stallone; Daniele De Rossi and Eminem ... I’m trying to find a good (read: atmosphere-filled) place in Baltimore to watch the World Cup qualifying showdown between Argentina and Brazil next Wednesday. Any suggestions?

Do you think Italy got hosed against Romania? Post your comments in the section below and come back after France-Holland for a Blog update ...

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