World Champions Germany will have to defy history and beat Italy tonight in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 if they are to have the chance to further their ambitions and reign victorious on the European stage this summer.
Germany versus Italy! It’s a game fit for a final. Except one of them won’t even make it past the quarter-finals at Euro 2016. The continental heavyweights, who share a total of eight World Cups and four European Championships between them, collide at the Stade de Bordeaux in Bordeaux in a match that stands out for many reasons.
Firstly, there’s the skewed history of their meetings in major tournaments. Germany and Italy have played each other eight times at the highest level and, bizarrely, the Germans haven’t recorded a single victory. In the four knockout matches, they have lost all four, with the last coming in the Euro 2012 semi-finals. It’s a daunting record, but the mantra coming out of the German camp this week has been one of spiky indifference.
Joachim Low’s side, however, are unbeaten, having won all but one of their matches in the tournament in France so far – a goalless draw against Poland in the group stages – and their 3-0 victory over Slovakia in the last 16 showed they are moving into top gear at just the right time. But Antonio Conte’s Italy team will be difficult opposition to overcome, with the Azzurri having disposed of reigning European champions Spain 2-0 in Paris.
Goals from Giorgio Chiellini and Graziano Pelle along with a passionate and tactically superior display from the entire team helped Italy book their place in the quarter-finals, despite pre-tournament expectations being low. And they now have the chance to answer their critics further with a win over Germany which will make them the firm favourites to win the competition.
DATE, TIME AND COVERAGE
Saturday 2 July, 21:00 CEST (00:30 IST) kick-off. Live on ITV/HD (Sony Six/HD). Live match commentary on BBC Football.
Low has the luxury of a full squad to choose from as his side look to avenge their semi-final defeat against the Italians four years earlier. Mario Gomez and Joshua Kimmich are both expected to keep their places in the team ahead of Mario Gotze and Benedikt Howedes.
Conte, on the other hand, may be without key midfielder Daniele De Rossi when they take on Germany tonight. The experienced Roma player suffered a “serious right thigh injury” against Spain and is unlikely to be fit for the game. Meanwhile, Antonio Candreva (hamstring) is also a doubt and Thiago Motta is suspended after picking up a second yellow card against the holders.
HEAD TO HEAD
Played – 33
Germany Wins – 8
Draw – 10
Italy Wins – 15
HEAD TO HEAD FIXTURES
29-Mar-16 – Friendly – Germany 4-1 Italy
15-Nov-13 – Friendly – Italy 1-1 Germany
28-Jun-12 – European Championship – Germany 1-2 Italy
09-Feb-11 – Friendly – Germany 1-1 Italy
04-Jul-06 – World Cup – Germany 0-2 Italy
Germany – WWDWW
26-Jun – Euro 2016 – Germany 3-0 Slovakia
21-Jun – Euro 2016 – Northern Ireland 0-1 Germany
16-Jun – Euro 2016 – Germany 0-0 Poland
12-Jun – Euro 2016 – Germany 2-0 Ukraine
04-Jun – Friendly – Germany 2-0 Hungary
Italy – WLWWW
27-Jun – Euro 2016 – Italy 2-0 Spain
22-Jun – Euro 2016 – Italy 0-1 Republic of Ireland
17-Jun – Euro 2016 – Italy 1-0 Sweden
13-Jun – Euro 2016 – Belgium 0-2 Italy
06-Jun – Friendly – Italy 2-0 Finland
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jerome Boateng (Germany)
Germany are yet to concede in the tournament and that is largely thanks to Boateng, one-half of their solid centre-back pairing. The Germans are obviously an extremely cohesive unit but four successive clean sheets in a major tournament is quite some feat. Intelligent, precise and calm, the Bayern Munich defender is not only a defensive rock but also has a keen eye for the runs of his teammates and has a pass to match. Against an in-form frontline, Boateng will have to be at his best to keep Conte’s men at bay.
Emanuele Giaccherini (Italy)
Sunderland arguably have one of Italy’s best performers of the tournament on their books. After an unsuccessful spell on Wearside, Giaccherini was sent away on loan to Bologna where he subsequently flourished and he has carried that form to the Euros. He will be up against the German centre-back pairing of Boateng and Mats Hummels, but as he showed with his goal against Belgium, he is capable of utilising his 5ft5in frame to race ahead of his markers and make the difference.
Toni Kroos v Graziano Pelle
It’s reasonable to suggest that Toni Kroos has been Germany’s most valuable player at Euro 2016 and is the lynchpin in the midfield alongside Sami Khedira. Italy’s best chance of success is to limit his influence on the game and so keeping a man close to the German is vital, just as they did with Sergio Busquets against Spain. This is where Pelle comes into play. The Southampton man has shone in Conte’s collective. Not only did he scored the second against Spain but also marked Busquets out of the game and stopped the ball from circulating easily through the Spanish ranks. If he and his attacking partner Eder can achieve similar things and nullify the threat of Kroos then Germany could struggle to assert their dominance on this hard working Italy side.
Germany (4-2-3-1) – Manuel Neuer; Joshua Kimmich, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Jonas Hector; Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos; Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Julian Draxler; Mario Gomez.
Italy (3-5-2) – Gianluigi Buffon; Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini; Alessandro Florenzi, Marco Parolo, Stefano Sturaro, Emanuele Giaccherini, Mattia De Sciglio; Graziano Pelle, Eder.
Name – Viktor Kassai
Based – Hungary
Age – 40
Games – 2
Yellow Cards – 7
Red Cards – 0
Penalties – 1
Germany 11/8, Draw 2/1, Italy 13/5
This game has all the ingredients to be the game of the tournament. These are the two best teams in the competition by a million miles and that is why it is a very hard result to predict. Germany, of course, have the greater talent on paper but Italy have a coach who has already shown he can make up for that disparity with an expertly designed and executed game plan. Germany’s strength is their midfield and Conte could choose to employ a similar strategy to the one that was so effective against Spain. However, Germany are more flexible and in Mario Gomez, they have a physical presence up front which the Spaniards lacked. And, at the same time, they have a formidable defence which are yet to concede. It could well go to extra time and even penalties, but Germany may just prevail in the end.
Predicted Score – Germany 1-0 Italy
This article is written by Shantanu Ambekar, you can follow him on Twitter at @ShantanuAmbekar. What are your thoughts? Let us know by dropping a comment via our comments box below. Make sure you follow us on Twitter, Google+, Instagram and like us on Facebook.