West Bromwich Albion
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Real Betis
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West Bromwich AlbionWest Bromwich Albion
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By ESPN Staff

The better team won, admits Ballack

A tearful Michael Ballack claimed 'it just isn't meant to be' for him to play in a World Cup final after Italy clinched an epic semi-final victory over Germany in Dortmund.

Four years after the Chelsea signing missed out on Germany's 2-0 loss to Brazil after being banned, a 119th-minute strike by Fabio Grosso denied him a second shot at glory in dramatic fashion.

Grosso curled in a superb shot from a sharp left angle deep into extra-time before Alessandro del Piero doubled the lead two minutes later to force the host nation to its knees.

The 29-year-old Ballack could not hold back his tears after the final whistle.

'It is very bitter for us to get eliminated like this, one minute from time,' Ballack said. 'It is bitter but not undeserved. We started out rather slowly but did a much better job in the second half.

'The game was well-balanced. The Italians had the better chances in extra-time as they hit woodwork twice. But we also had some good opportunities afterwards, with the header (from Lukas Podolski).'

Italy hit the post twice in the first two minutes of extra-time, first through Alberto Gilardino and then through Gianluca Zambrotta, but Podolski wasted a clear-cut chance when he headed wide and also forced Gianluigi Buffon into a spectacular save eight minutes from time.

But then came Andrea Pirlo's superb pass, and Ballack hailed the man-of-the-match for setting up the game winner in impressive fashion.

'I don't really know what happened,' Ballack added. 'It was a corner which got cleared. Pirlo did a superb job. Normally you would shoot but he ran parallel to the box.

'We had three players in front of him but could not prevent his feed. And then Grosso puts on a great, clinical finish.'

A heartbroken Ballack almost broke out in tears when he was asked whether Tuesday's loss felt any worse than his absence from the 2002 World Cup Final.

'It just is not meant to be for me,' he stated. 'It is bitter.'

Germany defender Christoph Metzelder claimed Pirlo's 'moment of brilliance' made the difference.

'Everyone was expecting him to shoot but he just passed,' Metzelder said. 'That was a moment of brilliance.

'We are utterly disappointed. I am sure we would have won the shoot-out. To go down like this is cruel. We would have deserved to win.'