TONIGHT, SOMETHING’S GOING to have to give.
For one, there’s the fact that Germany have never beaten Italy in a tournament match — something which Jogi Loew correctly cited as completely irrelevant to his current team.
Two, there’s the fact Italy haven’t appeared in a European final since 2000.
Most of all, though, there’s the attacking styles of both teams. The two teams have been widely praised for the nature of their football over the past few weeks: Germany have been one of the most exhilarating teams in the tournament; Italy have successfully adopted the Spanish possession style.
In the semi-final, a touch of pragmatism is going to be required from one if not both sides. And, within all of the proactive football, there are a few points to note. Germany are perfectly prepared to go to the counter-attack, where they can be just as devastating; Italy can also revert to the reserved style of stereotype — as they did against Spain and, to a certain extent, Croatia.
From that, then, a few stats complicate the fixture further.
Germany can go to the counter but can’t seem to properly defend given that they’ve been coughing up an average of two goals a game over the year — just look at the Greece game.,
Italy, meanwhile, might benefit from that openness if they could actually finish chances. They’ve got the worst goals-to-shot ratio in the tournament and have barely scored over a goal of the game.
Given that, and given their momentum, it’s hard not to see the Germans just sneaking this one.
Key battle: Bastien Schweinsteiger v Andrea Pirlo
Key question: In a game that will likely see Germany enjoy more attacks, what will tell more at the other end: the open defence of Jogi Loew’s team or the profligate attack of the Italians?
Recent scoring form: Germany 2.9 goals a game; Italy 1.3 goals a game
Recent defensive form: Germany 2 goals a game; Italy 0.5 goals a game
History lesson: as has been well documented, Germany have never beaten Italy at an international tournament, with that 2006 semi-final defeat the latest in a long enough line of reversals. The Germans have, however, put the Italians out of the European Championship, with the 0-0 draw at Euro 96 sending the eventual champions top of the group and putting Italy out. The Italians have also never beaten Germany in the European Championships.
- Germany are on a world-record 15 match winning run in competitive games
- Germany are aiming for their sixth European Championship final
- Italy are aiming for their third
Prediction: Germany 2-1 Italy