In a repeat of the ’06 World Cup semi-finals, Italy face a formidable German side in the penultimate match of this year’s European Championship. The Azzurri go into the match with history on their side, having won all three of their previous semi-final matches against the Germans, having never lost to them in a competitive match. The Germans, who will be looking to break the Italian jinx, will also have revenge on their minds from the ’06 World Cup in which they were beaten at home by the Azzurri. Germany have five players from that fateful match and though Miroslav Klose might deny it, memories of that bitter defeat will be constantly nagging the back of their minds.
Form Guide: Germany
Die Mannschaft have arguably been the most exciting team so far in the tournament. The fact that they are on a world record, fifteen-match winning streak speaks volumes about this teams’ capability and their desire to win. They are also the only team to have a 100% win record at Euro’12. Needless to say, they have incredibly talented players and Joachim Low is literally spoilt for choice. They have effective replacements for almost every position in the starting XI. This was evident in the game against Greece, where Andre Schurrle, Marko Reus and Miroslav Klose replaced core players Lucas Podolski, Mario Gomez and Thomas Muller, and they still managed to thump Greece 4-2.
Germany have been excellent going forward in trademark German precision and their midfield has been working like clockwork due to the presence of Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger, who rank comfortably among the best in the world. They have scored nine goals in four matches; a stat that shows their attacking prowess and Mario Gomez is in joint lead for the golden boot with three goals to his name. The German defense might be a concern as they have let in four goals and have shown weakness during counter attacks as almost all their goals conceded, apart from a penalty, have been through quick counter-attacking maneuvers. They will have to be wary of the enigmatic Balotelli, who is certainly capable of pulling a few rabbits out of his hat, as he showed in the game against Ireland.
Last Five Matches
Form Guide: Italy
The Azzuri had a rather slow run up to Euro’12 and expectations were low, having lost all of their warm up games prior to the tournament, including a 3-0 demolition at the hands of Russia. They were expected to be the defensive minded outfit of the last four years, who would fizzle out in front of better teams. Instead, they have played a much more free flowing style of football, much to the pleasant surprise of their fans, and have produced a string of superb performances. They have dominated possession in all of their matches, except against Spain, and have also been solid at the back, having conceded only two goals so far. Their biggest concern will be the fact that they have managed to score only four goals in as many matches so far: a stat which reflects their seeming inability to score goals during open play, through which only one of their goals have come. Cesare Prandelli has to find a way to deal with Balotelli’s erratic nature as he can be lethal at times, but is still capable of missing the most simple chances.
Andrea Pirlo will be the key in the match against Germany. Pirlo has easily been one of the best midfielders in the competition and has had a stellar season back home with Juventus. Together with De Rossi, he will have to make sure that Germany do not impose themselves on the Azzuri and dictate terms by keeping possession in midfield. Pirlo will also have to be on top of his passing game to be able to deliver through balls and open up the German defense, especially since they have shown susceptibility to counter-attacks. Balotelli has been getting in good positions and making meaningful runs into the box, but his finishing has not done justice to his talents. Since the Germans are a very athletic team, scoring from set plays is going to be difficult, and one cannot help but feel that Italy’s fortunes in this match are tied to how Balotelli decides to play.
Past Five Matches
|24/6/12||Kiev||England||W 0-0(4-2 pen)|
|18/6/12||Poznan||Rep. of Ireland||W 2-0|
Head to Head:
The trans-alpine rivals have faced each other seven times in competitive matches: five times in the World Cup and twice at the Euros. Amazingly, Germany have never won against the Azzuri: a record that Joachim Low’s men will be looking to set straight. It is also something that will comfort the Italians ahead of the difficult clash. Pirlo has actually gone ahead and said that Germany are “afraid” of the Azzuri. How the Germans actually feel, we’ll find out on Thursday.
|2006||World Cup||Dortmund||Italy 2-0 Germany|
|1996||Euro||Manchester||Italy 0-0 Germany|
|1988||Euro||Dusseldorf||Italy 1-1 Germany|
|1982||World Cup||Madrid||Italy 3-1 Germany|
|1978||World Cup||Buenos Aires||Italy 0-0 Germany|
|1970||World Cup||Mexico City||Italy 4-3 Germany|
|1962||World Cup||Santiago de Chile||Italy 0-0 Germany|
Possible Lineups and Formations:
Boateng, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm
Reus, Ozil, Podolski
Low will stick to the same formation he has used through out the campaign, with a five man midfield and lone target man. Muller may be left out again as he has been out of touch of late and will be replaced either by Reus or Schrrule. Many people expect Klose to play but Low might prefer to start Gomez as he has been in terrific form, is excellent with his head as well as with his feet and is more likely to keep Gigi Buffon busy.
Chiellini, Brazagli, Bonucci, Blazaretti
Marchisio, Pirlo, Nocerino
Prandelli has reverted to his 4-2-3-1 formation after the first two games which were played with a 3-5-2 formation. Italy are a little on the back foot as participation of De Rossi and Abate is in doubt due to injury while Christian Maggio is suspended. Chiellini and Nocerino might play in place of the injured duo. On a positive note, Thiago Motta has recovered from a minor injury and is expected to start.
Germany 2-1 Italy
Even though Germany might be susceptible to counter attacks, they still are a very good defensive side and should hold up against the Italians. If De Rossi does not play, Italy risk being completely overwhelmed in midfield by the Ozil-Schweinsteiger combine. Pirlo will have his hands full trying to deal with the duo. Die Mannschaft are simply too potent an attacking force to be kept quiet.