By Alessia Palanti Special to Published Jul 06, 2010 at 8:19 AM

Please excuse my temporary silence, blog readers.

With Italy out of the World Cup in the blink of an eye -- literally, my eyes hurt after watching the team slowly fall apart like a tiramisu left on the counter overnight -- I kept blinking but the results did not change.

After the U.S. was felled by a late Ghana goal, I became more reflective. But after many conversations with World Cuppers -- both die-hards and newbies -- I realized that this tournament has unveiled quite impressive semi-finalists and results based on merit rather than nepotism or meiosis ... for the most part.

Aside from "few" terrible calls: the ephemeral offensive foul that cost the U.S. a win over Algeria; the goal by Frank Lampard that was clearly two yards behind the goal line ... but the Three Lions wilted under German pressure in the second half once they realized the game was being refereed by Mr. Magoo; an offside goal by Argentina's Tevez giving Maradona's charges a 1-0 lead (and an interestingly violent half-time confrontation with Mexico); finally, a questionable free-kick given to Ghana as a reward for a gorgeous dive only to be surpassed by a blatant handball by Luis Suarez on the line saving Uruguay's hopes and altering the fate of the tourney.

Uruguayan President Jose Mujica Cordano immediately announced a statue to be constructed commemorating the sagacious defending of aforementioned Suarez.

To be honest, the refereeing was handled well early in the group stages, but it became too boring for the whole tournament. Nevertheless, the cosmos worked its magic with or without bad eyesight and partisan choices and the teams that do deserve to move on, do. One of the favored teams, Brazil, lost to a pugnacious Dutch squad. Brazil played scared in the second half and the results reflected the reticence.

Of course, Brazil lost not only the match on the pitch, but shortly thereafter Coach Dunga and his entire staff lost their jobs. With a performance in the quarterfinals resembling more dung than Dunga, Brazil summarily fired everyone associated with such a shameful result (many teams would throw parades after making the final eight).

Meanwhile, an incredibly powerful, obstinate and disciplined Germany (it may be a faint reflection of the culture) sent Maradona's Argentina squad home with a fourfold slap in the face.

I did wear a sky-blue shirt and white pants that day as I felt particular affection for the team (perhaps the high number of Italians residing in the country has something to do it), but I couldn't help but laugh when, at the Highbury, a Germany-cheering patron pretending to be Maradona exclaimed: "Feet aren't enough, use your hands!"

Then the "hand ball of God" got into an argument with German fans regarding their celebration. Look for Maradona and Dunga soon at a soup kitchen near you. Sadly, Argentina goes home, but the attentive and precise Germans fully deserve their semi-final berth.

Now we are left with ... the Europeans. The dust has settled on the South Americans. Three heavyweight continental powers will vie for the Cup. The semifinal cast is composed of Germany vs. Spain preceded by the Netherlands vs. Uruguay. The South American teams were incredibly promising at the beginning of the tournament, but traditional European powers prevailed.

There is a certain nostalgia to Uruguay's travail to the semis, for it has been 40 years since they lost to the Pelè-led Brazilians, it has been 60 years since they upset host country Brazil in front of nearly 200,000 spectators to win their second Cup, and it has been 80 years since they won the first tournament in 1930.

Another victory by this incredibly skilled and good-looking team -- seriously, their jerseys are awesome -- would be delightful. But I am hoping for a final between the Netherlands and Spain because neither of these football imbued cultures has ever raised the World Cup. Regardless, the three best games of the tournament are on our horizon.

Enjoy the action.

Alessia Palanti Special to
Alessia is a freelance writer from Florence, Italy. She has lived in Milwaukee for almost two years, with frequent visits back to her hometown.

She received a BA from Beloit College, where she developed as a modern dance choreographer. She has worked in the arts administration world in Chicago and has interned at The Repertory Theater in Milwaukee.

The performing arts -- film, theater and music -- are her passion, and she believes that the stage is not limited to scripted, but rather expands even the length of the soccer field.

She works part-time at the Highbury Pub in Bay View, which inspires her to share her cross-cultural experiences and her ideas on "the beautiful game."