Germany v Italy Match Analysis

A match like this needs no introduction, but I'm going to try to give it one anyway. Germany versus Italy in a major football tournament is one of those 'must watch' games, irrespective of your nationality. There are many reasons why this is the case, one of the main ones being the number of trophies won by both teams, another is the fact that Italy are Germany's bogey side, having never lost to them in a competitive fixture. Would today be the day that the Germans finally broke the 54 year hoodoo?

Before the game, Antonio Conte had been engaging in mind games to take the focus away from his squad and pile all the pressure on his opponents, insisting that Germany are "the most complete team" in the world. The Italian goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon, also got in on the act, labelling his German counterpart, Manuel Neuer, the "better" of the two. Under normal circumstances, this would have little or no effect on the German football psyche, however, given their past record against Italy, you couldn't help but wonder whether it might play on the minds of one or two of the less experienced players.

Italy started the game without Motta and De Rossi, who are out through suspension and injury respectively, while Germany fielded a more defensive formation than usual (3 5 2), with Schalke defender Benedikt Höwedes replacing Julian Draxler, perhaps due to the fact that this was the first real test since the tournament began.

Germany started the brighter of the two teams, moving the ball around with relative ease, while Italy were happy to allow them to have the ball, opting for a more measured approach. When Italy did have the ball they used it remarkably efficiently, changing the point of attack with quick angled passes that stretched the German back three.

Germany suffered a blow after only 15 minutes when Sami Khedira went off with a groin injury, with squad captain, and Man Utd midfielder, Bastian Schweinsteiger coming on as his replacement.
This turned out to be the most exciting thing that happened in the first 30 minutes, as it was noticeable that neither goalkeeper had had a save to make, in fact the most entertaining aspect of this period of the game was Antonio Conte's histrionics in and around the technical area (the dimensions of which the Italian coach seemed unaware of).

The first half was drifting into a dull stalemate, until the 42nd minute when a good move down the left by Germany caused panic in the Italian box, with Müller failing to add the killer touch. This provoked Italy into pressing forward, although a short spell of pressure yielded no results.

No changes at halftime, and the game restarted following a similar pattern to the first 45 minutes, ie Germany with plenty of the ball, and Italy being tough to break down. The Italian resolve was typified by a wonderfully acrobatic defensive block by Florenzi, which prevented a Müller pile driver from finding the net. A rash of Italian yellow cards followed as they attempted to break up the German midfield play by any means necessary, because of this Sturaro and De Sciglio would now be suspended should Italy progress.

After 64 minutes Germany finally managed to find a way through the Italian defence, with Mesut Özil being the beneficiary of some untypically poor marking. He timed his run into the box brilliantly, and swept a deflected pullback into Buffon's goal. With Germany a goal up, would Italy take risks to try to force an equaliser?
The answer was emphatically no, as Germany continued to apply pressure. Özil seemingly had the run of the pitch, pulling the strings and testing the Italian back 3 at every opportunity.

Italy equalised on 77 minutes, Bonucci tucking away a neat penalty into the bottom corner of Neuer's goal after Jerome Boateng's strangely positioned arms came into contact with the ball during a good spell of possession from the Azzurri. After this, the game once again drifted into stalemate, with extra time looking more and more likely as the fear of making a game-costing mistake forced both teams to tighten up and keep men behind the ball. After a fairly tense 90+ minutes, the referee put his whistle to his lips and brought the second half to a close.

With extra time confirmed, could someone pull a piece of magic out of thin air and write their own chapter in the illustrious history of these two great teams? Or, would the weight of expectation, and the threat of cramp, paralyse both groups of players like rabbits frozen by car headlights?
After 30 tired and largely uneventful minutes we had our answer; paralysis 1 magic 0.
As the teams gather to sort out the order, I have to give special mention to Bastian Schweinsteiger. He came to the tournament on the back of an injury which wiped out the second half of his domestic season, because of this he was used sparingly, only coming on to see out the games. The injury to Khedira forced Joachim Low to gamble on his fitness, thrusting him into the action early in the first half. From that point on he ran the show in midfield, supporting Özil and protecting the German back three. 100 minutes later he was still getting into the Italian penalty box, showing some of the younger players how it's done. At the final whistle he looked exhausted after giving everything to help his team, in fact, the only thing on that pitch more worn out was the sole of Conte's shoes!

Anyway, penalties it is, time to sort the men from the boys.

Za Za is one of the boys, as is Müller apparently.  Özil was next to fluff his lines, followed swiftly by Graziano Pellé. Does anybody want to win this game?

Not Bonucci, anyway.

Time for a hero. Time for Schweinsteiger. The captain walked purposefully to the penalty area, placed the ball on the spot, and blasted it high into the Bordeaux night air.

Sudden death. Who would blink first?

After a seemingly endless run of successful spot kicks, Matteo Darmian was next to blot his copybook, giving Jonas Hector the opportunity of his life. The FC Cologne full back repaid the faith shown in him by Joachim Löw, placed his left foot spot-kick low into the net, and sent his team into the semi final.

On balance, it was the correct result, although you have to feel for an Italian team that came here with the tag of "worst Italy team for 50 years".

The truth is, if this is the worst, then we're all going to be in trouble when they build a good one.


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