Whoever you face at this stage of a European Championship you know you’re going to be in for a battle to reach the final, but it’s probably fair to say Germany would’ve preferred to be playing England rather than Italy.
Joachim Loew’s team have gone from strength to strength since demolishing Fabio Capello’s men 4-1 at the World Cup two years ago, while in the same time England, now under Roy Hodgson, have scarcely improved. The Germans would therefore feel confident of winning again in a re-match, even bearing in mind extra English incentive to exact revenge.
Germany also historically have the edge on England when it comes to head-to-head matches in major competitions, with 1966 the notable exception. Against Italy, however, it’s the opposite, in fact it’s surprisingly poor. I mean never having beaten the Italians in any competitive match-poor.
Italy also, like Germany and, let’s be honest, unlike England, are a big-match team who seem to get better with every match at major tournaments, so they are unlikely to be intimidated or overawed by the occasion. Perhaps most importantly though, against England, Italy showed they are a very capable side: good at keeping possession, tactically astute and blessed with a sprinkling of very dangerous players. They’re unbeaten in the competition and with a far better chance of winning it than anyone thought pre-tournament.
All the above considered Germany, being Germany, ought to be extra-efficient in going about their business in this match to ensure they end the poor record and make the final. They will not be lacking confidence either, it’s rare that German sides do, but especially not ones who’ve
won their last 15 competitive matches. Loew’s men have won plaudits for their attacking football since he took charge and it’s the way his side have continually swept to victory as much as the results themselves that have won admiration. They just seem to play more football than German teams in the past, with flair players like Mesut Ozil giving the side an elan that hasn’t always been there.
Germany have been tipped as the most serious rival to Spain in this competition, while Italy have been largely ignored. They’ll be
expected to justify this faith in them by beating Italy and proving that they’re a better team. They’ll need no reminding that they were also favourites to win when the sides last met at this level. Of all Germany’s failures to beat the Italians in their seven previous meetings (drew four, lost three) in a competitive environment none would’ve hurt more than the 2-0 defeat on home territory in the 2006 World Cup semi-final.
It was a game in which Jurgen Klinsmann’s Germany squandered excellent chances and were then made to pay in extra time when they were caught on the break. For all their supposed superiority it’s not inconceivable the same could happen again.
There’s no doubt the man Loew will feel it’s most imperative his team manage to stop: Andrea Pirlo. He’s been instrumental in Italy’s progression to this stage and if he’s not controlled he can cause untold damage to any opposition. The fact that Bastian Schweinsteiger has been passed fit for Germany is a huge relief for them, not least because it may be he who is tasked with staying close to Pirlo and limiting his threat.
Against Greece Loew shocked everyone by resting his preferred front three and displaying the strength in depth he possesses, with youngsters Andrea Schurrle and Marko Reus giving a glimpse of their potential for the future. However if there is one man Germany surely can’t do without it is Schweinsteiger, even more than Ozil, as so much of their play goes through him.
Schweinsteiger had received treatment on a knee injury after the Greece game, but will almost certainly take his place alongside Sami Khedira in midfield, while Mario Gomez, Lukas Podolski and Thomas Muller will all reclaim their places and make up the front three.
Tags: Bastian Schweinsteiger, Euro 2012, Germany, Italy