What: Euro 2012 Semi-final Who: Germany vs Italy When: Thursday 28th June, 2012, at 19:45 UK Time Where: National Stadium, Warsaw, Poland Irrepressible Germany Live Up to Favourites Tag Four games in and Germany’s status as pre-tournament favourites has been enhanced. Total domination of the ‘group of death’, beating Portugal, Holland and Denmark was as strong a marker as Joachim Low’s side could have put down. Though they made hard work of the quarter final against Greece, the side eventually romped to victory with a stylish last half hour performance. Low faced some interesting questions over his team selection after a slightly experimental line-up against the Greeks. Marco Reus performed superbly, and the Borussia Dortmund forward could take the place of Thomas Muller here. Meanwhile Low will have seen the threat Italy gave England with their quick forwards, and could pair Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng at centre-back to counter that threat. One man who will play if fit, as is likely, is Bastian Schweinsteiger, who is working hard to shake off an injury niggle. Germany are now on a run of 15 competitive wins in a row after beating all their opponents at Euro 2012 so far, a record for the national team. And though they were already the most successful side in European Championship history, this year was the first time they won all their group games. Variety is key in this attractive German team, and with talents such as Reus, Mesut Ozil, Mario Gomez, Lukas Podolski and Mario Gotze, Low will be confident his chosen eleven can outscore opponents who have only found the net four times at Euro 2012. Andrea Pirlo Inspires Italy This may not be a vintage Italy side, as was observed in spite of their impressive showing against England at the weekend, but neither was the team which claimed victory at the 2006 World Cup. Then, as now, Italy faced a match-fixing crisis at home, yet the national team surprised everyone to romp to victory abroad. Another omen the Italians will be keen to remember is that they have never lost to the Germans in a competitive match. The seven games have seen them win three and draw four. And Italy have won eight out of 10 major tournament semi-finals. The Azzurri will be confident too after their performance against England. Though Pirlo was the star of the show with a virtuoso performance, he was more than ably assisted by the creative talents of Claudio Marchisio and Ricardo Montolivo, the latter being particularly incisive. But coach Cesare Prandelli now has a far harder task in overcoming a rampant Germany team. Italy managed to hold the world and European champions in their opening game of the tournament with a 1-1 draw against Spain, but have admitted that tiredness has afflicted them. The Azzurri have recovered from the horrors of their World Cup showing in 2010, but have overachieved already and will have to pull out an even better performance to have a chance of overcoming Low’s side. Recent form Germany: Germany 4-2 Greece (22/06; Euro 2012) Germany 2-1 Denmark (17/06; Euro 2012) Germany 2-1 Holland (13/06; Euro 2012) Italy: England 0-0 (2-4 pens) Italy (24/06; Euro 2012) Italy 2-0 Ireland (18/06; Euro 2012) Croatia 1-1 Italy (14/06; Euro 2012) Players to watch Germany – Mesut Ozil : Ozil will have perhaps the most important set of tasks on the night. The lead creator in the slick Germany attack, the Real Madrid man may also be tasked with closing down the space in which Pirlo will try to operate. If he can do that successfully, the Italian midfield’s efficiency will be reduced, as will their ability to counter attack or launch long passes for Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano. Going forward meanwhile, the potency of the German attack, led by Gomez and assisted by Podolski and probably Reus, will depend on the creativity and industry of Ozil. Italy – Federico Balzaretti : All eyes will be on Pirlo, his Juventus colleague Marchisio and new AC Milan signing Montolivo. But with a doubt over the fitness of Ignazio Abate, Balzaretti, unheralded as the Palermo man may be, could be absolutely vital. Germany have shown during the tournament that as good as they are, goals can be scored against them. For Italy to do that, they will look to hit them on the break, and Balzaretti’s forward runs will be important to help create two-on-ones down the German right hand side. If Balzaretti can do this as well as he did against England, the German defence can be stretched, and that will be the key for Italy if they are to shock their opponents and reach the final. Match Prediction Germany have scored in their last 20 games, with the last seven strikes to find the net being converted by seven different players. Italy on the other hand have scored just four goals so far, but conversely, do have the tournament’s best defence. In fact, no team has got this far scoring so few goals since Euro 1996. But it would be wrong to label Prandelli’s men defensive. The Azzurri have had more shots on goal than any other team at Euro 2012, so finishing has been an issue, with Balotelli particularly guilty. He has had the second highest number of shots in the tournament thus far, but with his quality, it would be a surprise if he did not finally convert one in this clash. Germany though are favourites for good reason and with their attacking skill should be able to both make and take enough chances to reach their second successive European Championship final – but not without a fight.
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Euro 2012 Semi-final: Germany v Italy Match Preview