Runners-up in the previous Euro, Germany are scheduled to meet a new-look Italy in the second semi-final of Euro 2012 at the National Stadium, Warsaw. The last competitive clash involving the two teams was in the semi-final of the World Cup 2006, hosted by Germany. The match went into extra-time when neither team failed to score at the end of ninety minutes. Grosso and Del Piero scored for the Azzurri in the last two minutes of extra-time t0 break the host nation’s heart. Since then, German football has been on the ascendancy while their Italian counterparts have been inconsistent. This Thursday, the men in black and white have the perfect chance to avenge that loss.
At their rampaging best throughout the tournament, the Germans are the only team to have won every game played. Though they were placed in the toughest group of the competition, the Mannschaft proved their class by winning all their games against Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark. To emerge on top of a group that comprises teams that are among the top ten in the world speaks volumes about the well-oiled German machinery.
In the quarter-finals, Joachim Low’s men made mincemeat of a hapless Greece, trashing them 4-2. The first half was rather event-less except for Philipp Lahm’s thundering long-range strike that put the Germans ahead. Georgios Samaras’ equalizer ten minutes into the second half triggered a severe German back-lash as Khedira, Klose and Reus scored a goal each to take Germany to an insurmountable 4-1 lead. Salpingidis converted a spot kick for Greece in the last minute of regular time but it was too little too late.
Italy, on the other hand, started their campaign in a less spectacular fashion. Two consecutive 1-1 draws, against Spain and Croatia, left the Azzurri in a dire situation with only the game against Ireland to go. But fortune favoured the Italians as they overwhelmed Ireland 2-0 and Spain managed to defeat Croatia 1-0. They qualified as runners-up of Group C to meet perennial under-achievers England in the quarter-finals.
After 90 minutes, the quarter-final ended 0-0 and a 30 minutes of extra time did nothing to change the scoreline. Despite not scoring, Italy had the upper hand for most parts of the game, enjoying huge levels of possession. The Three Lions and the Azzurri prepared for the penalty shoot-out to decide the semi-finalist. When Montolivo missed the penalty, many thought Italy were doomed. However, the Englishmen made a mess of themselves as Ashley Young and Ashley Cole failed to convert their spot kicks and the island nation’s jinx with the penalty shoot-out remains unbroken.
Joachim Low sprung a surprise by including Klose, Schurrle and Reus in place of Gomez, Muller and Podolski in the starting eleven in the game against Greece. Given the depth in the squad, he can be expected to make a couple of surprising changes against Italy. Gomez and Podolski can be expected to lead the attack.
Cesare Prandelli would not be able to call on Christian Maggio after the defender collected his second booking of the tournament in the game against England. Balotelli, who coolly converted the penalty in the last game should retain his place.
Germany’s probable eleven ( 4-4-1-1): Neuer, Boateng, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm, Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Muller, Ozil, Podolski, Gomez.
Italy’s probable lineup (4-1-3-2): Buffon, Balzaretti, Chiellini, Barzagli, Abate, Pirlo, De Rossi, Motta, Marchisio, Cassano, Balotelli.
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Gokul is a software professional from Chennai, India. An avid sports fan, he is a keen follower of Cricket, Football, Hockey, Tennis and Formula One. He styles his articles as razor-edge analyses of all the hot and happening events in the field of sports.