Germany must seize chances against tough Italy defence - Loew
By Angus MacSwan
BORDEAUX, France (Reuters) - World champions Germany must seize any opportunities they get against Italy in Saturday's Euro 2016 quarter-final as their foes' rock-like defence was unlikely to offer many chances, coach Joachim Loew said.
Germany did not under-estimate Italy, he added, even though going into the tournament, Antonio Conte's team were considered one of the least talented sides they had fielded for decades.
"We have analysed Italy. They don't have only defensive quality but also in attack. That is what we have prepared our side for, we are aware of what we are going to confront tomorrow," Loew told a news conference on Friday.
"You must take your chances against Italy because you might not have so many as against Northern Ireland."
In the battle between Europe's top two traditional powers, the Germans must break down a defence built around the Juventus quartet of Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli. Italy have conceded one goal in four games.
The Italians also dumped defending champions Spain out of the tournament with 2-0 victory in the last 16.
"We are confident of our strengths. But it is about the opposition too. The stronger they are, the more you have to consider their strengths," Loew said.
He has a full squad to choose from, including captain Bastian Schweinsteiger, now fully fit following a long-term injury. Mario Gomez, initially left on the bench, looks set to spearhead the attack again after scoring in the last two games.
Loew dismissed the suggestion the Italians might be affected by the memory of their 4-1 loss to Germany in a March friendly.
"The Italians recover from a loss like that," he said. "Friendlies are not decisive games. The most important thing is what happens in a tournament."
On the Germans' minds, however, is their record of losing every tournament knockout game to Italy going back almost half a century, including a World Cup final and Euro 2012 semi-final.
"It is history that we have failed against Italy and we are aware of that," said midfielder Mesut Ozil. "But as a player you have to be professional to overcome that.
"We have the pedigree to beat any team and that’s what we want to show tomorrow," he added.
"We have experienced players and young players. Everyone has this goal to be champions. You can feel this. The energy is super, we have positive thinking, we think we can reach our goals."
(Reporting by Angus MacSwan, editing by Ken Ferris)