Italy, led by two goals from Paolo Rossi, continued its remarkable climb toward the pinnacle of soccer today by defeating Poland, 2-0, for a berth in the final of the World Cup.
The victory put Italy in the championship game for the fourth time. The Italians won consecutive World Cups in 1934 and 1938 and will be trying to equal Brazil's record of three world titles. Italy was beaten by Brazil in the 1970 final.
Rossi, who had three goals in his team's last game, against Brazil, scored in each half today and leads the tournament with five goals. He got his first goal today in the 22nd minute and his second in the 73rd minute.
Rossi's first goal was the result of a well-executed free kick from the right side by Giancarlo Antognoni. With the Poles looking for a high cross, Antognoni chipped the ball in low for Rossi, who turned it past goakkeeper Jozef Mlynarczyk from six yards out.
His second goal was set up by winger Bruno Conti, whose crossing pass put Mlynarzcyk flat on his face, leaving Rossi to nod the ball into an empty net.
Rossi's performances have been particularly significant because the 25-year-old striker resumed playing only nine weeks ago after being suspended for two years as part of the bribery scandal in the Italian league.
Until the shocking upset of Brazil, he did not have a goal in the tournament, but he has now established his credentials as one of the world's finest strikers.
The Italian team, which was given little chance at the start of the tournament of advancing to the final, has picked up the pace with Rossi. After playing listlessly at the outset of the 22-nation event, it has beaten defending-champion Argentina, Brazil and, now, Poland.
Italy, which was held to a scoreless tie by Poland in the first round, was the dominant team today.
With the temperature at 93 degrees, the game was dominated by defense--with the Poles indulging in some hard tackling, particularly when Rossi had the ball.
Poland felt the absence of Zbigniew Boniek, who was serving a one-game suspension. Without him, the East Europeans were unable to crack the well-organized Italian defense.
The Italians did not miss the defensive work of Claudio Gentile, who, like Boniek, was suspended for a game after receiving two yellow cards.
The predominantly Italian crowd of 50,000 groaned when Antognoni had to leave the game after only 28 minutes when he was injured attempting to reach a loose ball.
Poland, whose attack consisted of trying to tackle its way through the heart of Italy's defense, came closest to tying the score in the 34th minute when Janusz Kupcewicz's 35-yarder struck the post as 40-year-old goalkeeper Dino Zoff scrambled to cover.
After the game, a group of fans in St. Peter's Square held up a huge sign reading, "Paolo Rossi for Pope." Papal Swiss Guards joined police in keeping the excited fans away from entrances to Vatican City.
In Trapani, Sicily, police reported a 45-year-old construction worker, Pietro Yaccaro, was shot to death as he sat watching the game on television with about 30 other people in a bar.