Probably the most intriguing of the two semi-finals on offer at Euro 2012, Italy versus Germany is a fixture laden with history and one fact stands out above all else Germany have never beaten the Italians in a major tournament.
Well there’s always a first time and the Spanish managed to beat France at a canter in the quarters, a feat they had not achieved in six competitive meetings. Germany will never lack in self-belief and they will attack the game with their well-balanced game as they have done all tournament. The German style of play has been paying handsome dividends you get the feeling that this is their best opportunity yet to scalp Italy.
1970 saw these two teams play out what is considered the best game in World Cup history. In a mirror image of the present situation Italy had come to the game having sailed past hosts Mexico whereas Germany had to slog through 120 minutes against England. Both teams were brimming with world class players Germany with Schnellinger, Beckenbauer, Seeler and Müller while Italy had Sandro Mazzola and Gianni Rivera. Italy came out on top that day in a thrilling 4-3 game, let’s hope it’s a portent of things to come.
German Coach Joachim Löw insists that past defeats count for nothing and probably believes his Germany team (like in 1970) are superior and he may well be right, for this really is a fine crop of players and well-schooled team that attack with verve, defend with commitment and toil in midfield. What this German team want more than anything is to have another go at the Spanish in the final. They yearn for the chance to make up for the final in South Africa and this may well work in the Italian’s favour. Some of the build up to the game in Germany has been focused on Spain and how they have been playing ‘boring’ football. They may be getting just ahead of themselves. Italy, as always, have the guile to do what it takes to win.
The relative ease with which the Germans dispatched the Greeks in the quarter-final will have seen them slightly off the boil albeit with an extra two day’s rest. The Italians, on the other hand, should be battle-hardened after their well-fought win against the English. Pirlo’s virtuoso performance last Sunday will see him singled out for special attention from Schweinsteiger et al. but again the Juventus’ playmaker will be key in pulling the strings for the Azzurri. Further up field Prandelli could well opt for Diamanti instead of Cassano, who is yet to find his best form this tournament, not surprising he only returned from having a stroke last November. What we saw of Diamanti against England shows he has is not phased by the big occasion and he could supply better quality ball for Balotelli. The first-half tactic against Hodgson’s men of getting the trequartista into space and shoot from distance may need revision as Germany will not shirk defensive duties so you would hope whoever fills the role can show their ability to think on their feet and be creative.
For the Germans, well, Mario Gomez is in the hunt for the golden boot, Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira have looked always dangerous without ever really hitting top gear. While the Germans will be hoping to peak at the final, the Italians will be hoping they’ve taken their eye off the ball. Prandelli has some injury concerns to contend with, midfielder De Rossi came off against England with a thigh strain and is doubtful, his dog in midfield will be sorely missed, while right-back Ignazio Abate has a leg injury and left-back Christian Maggio will unfairly miss the semi-final due to a second yellow card picked up against England.
by Hugo Mc Cafferty