Germany Vs Italy
Venue - Stadion Narodowy Warszawa
Germany Preview: Midfield engine Bastian Schweinsteiger has been declared fit to face Italy in the Euro 2012 semi final. He has been struggling with an ankle injury, and was poor against Greece in the quarter finals. Germany powered through their match against the Greeks, winning by a 4-2 scoreline but defensively, it was perhaps their least convincing performance of Euro 2012. Coach Joachim Low has added an extra level of discipline in the Germany side, there is not quite the free-flowing forward drive that there was at the 2010 World Cup.
Germany are a more balanced side since then, and their defence had looked pretty solid. But their quarter final against Greece was a pretty error-strewn game from the German machine, but it is perhaps, their bad game out of the way. It seems odd to be talking about errors and improvement when you go out and score four goals, but Germany are striving for perfection, and they are not too far away from it. The key to their battle with Italy is going to be the midfield, and they badly need Schweinsteiger to be playing. He is what makes them tick, and because he was off his stride against Greece, the whole side struggled a bit.
Germany have never beaten Italy in a competitive match. They have lost four and drawn three against Italy when it has come to pressure matches. So they will be looking to turn around a bit of history. Germany are on a record breaking 15 match winning streak in competitive matches, and that cant be ignored. They are strong all over the pitch, and in the personnel they have on the bench. Low swapped the entire front line for the quarter final against Greece, giving his main core a rest, a chance to recharge for the semi final. The only big decision it looks like, is whether to start the experienced Mirsolav Klose over Mario Gomez up front, or not. Its a pretty good dilemma to have.
With a record of five European Championship semi finals wins out of six, going against the Germans here is hard to do. They are well behind the Italians in the head to head record, but on paper, on the day, Germany should be so much better. Germany will benefit hugely from getting on the front foot quickly against Italy, and cant wait for Italy to settle. The last time the two met in a competitive meeting, Italy prevailed in extra time of the 2006 World Cup semi final.
Italy Preview: Free-flowing, stylish, attacking football. Not what you would expect from Italy, but this is a modern, new look Italian side. Are they a finished, accomplished product? Not yet, there are still a couple of pieces to the equation missing. They lack true, world class forwards, and a bit of leadership across the back line. Other than that, they look pretty solid, but unlike Germany who have won all four matches at Euro 2012, Italy have picked up just one win and three draws. As much as they knocked on the door against England, totally controlling the second half and all of extra time, they could not find a way through.
They wasted plenty of chances to get the job done, and that is just indicative of where they are as a side right now. Italy are growing, they are on the right path, but they are not quite there yet. One thing is for sure, and that is they cant afford to be wasteful against the Germans, because they will be punished. Italy were made to look good, and were largely comfortable in their quarter final match, because England offered nothing as an attacking force apart from a spell early in the match.
Their play-maker Andrea Pirlo, who sits at the back of a midfield diamond, had all the time in the world to pick England apart with his range of vision and execution. Germany will want to stop him, although they have rejected the idea of sitting a man on him. USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann did a great job of negating Pirlo when the Americans beat Italy in a friendly earlier in the year. So while Pirlo is Italys brightest star, if Germany take him out of the game, Italy may well struggle. Italy are waiting on the fitness of influential right back Ignazio Abate, along with Georgio Chiellini and Daniele De Rossi.
Italy will be banking on their good history against Germany, although the Italians have failed to score in all three of their previous European Championship semi finals, so dont be surprised if this one goes past the ninety minute mark. Italy like to play an open game, we have seen that. They want to play football, but at the end of the day, it is just too hard to see them outscoring Germany in an open game. They havent got the quality up front to do that, and with Germany having more men in the midfield, Pirlos influence may be limited.
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