German perspective: Terry Duffelen
As an Englishman the one consolation from watching the nation’s quarter final exit on Sunday was the prospect of watching a rematch of that great Germany v Italy World Cup semi final from 2006. Back then both teams participated in one of the best ever international football matches. The first goal was scored by a full back, Fabio Grosso and it is possible that the winner of this match may come from the flanks while a game of chess takes place in the middle of the park.
Understandably, Germany will be preoccupied with the strong Italian midfield and will be anxious not to give Andrea Pirlo the space to play those devastating passes that will forever live in the nightmares of the English (as they did for Germany in 2006).
For a start, the German's play with a lone striker so there should be extra bodies in the middle. Then there is the small matter of Mesut Özil with his fantastic vision, passing and movement. In addition, there are the two central midfielders of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira, the latter of which has been Germany’s best player, in my opinion. This combination should give the Italians a few restless nights and deny them the freedom they enjoyed against the two English banks of four.
Against Greece, German coach Joachim Löw surprised many by selecting Marco Reus, André Schürrle and Miroslav Klose ahead of Lucas Podolski, Thomas Müller and Mario Gomez. This gambit was designed to combat the defensiveness of the Greeks and was a spectacular success. Of course, Italy will be a lot more ambitious in attack and it will be interesting to see if Löw reshuffles his pack again. Schürrle did not have a great game and I would not be surprised to see him replaced by Müller who offers a little more tactical discipline on the right flank.
Score Prediction - Germany 1-0 Italy
Correct 1-0 scoreline 6.25. Philipp Lahm to score the first goal: 28.00. Goalless at half time: 2.50.
Italian perspective: Paolo Bandini
If a day is a long time in politics, then in football two might be decisive. That is the feeling among the Italian press as they size up their country’s semi-final against a Germany team who played their quarter-final against Greece last Friday, a full 48 hours before the Azzurri kicked off against England. Throw in the fact that the latter game went to extra-time then penalties, and it is easy to understand why anxiety over player fatigue is high.
Italy have specific concerns over the fitness of Ignazio Abate and Daniele De Rossi, each of whom had to be substituted against England, as well as Giorgio Chiellini, who missed the quarter-final with a hamstring injury. At time of writing the Italian medical staff still hope to have all three ready to face Germany. While De Rossi’s influence is undeniable, Abate’s availability could be even more crucial as Italy’s only other right-back, Christian Maggio, is suspended.
Cesare Prandelli’s other option might be to switch Federico Balzaretti to right-back, a position he played earlier in his career, but either way it seems the manager is minded to stick with the 4-3-1-2 used for Italy’s last two games, rather than reverting to the 3-5-2 deployed for the first two. The tactic helped Italy to dominate possession against England, and they will aspire to do so again – even if it will be a far greater challenge against Jogi Löw’s dynamic side.
Italy’s greatest hope, though, will be that this time they can be more clinical. Their 50 attempts on goal so far in the tournament – the highest tally of the four remaining teams – have yielded just four goals, while Germany have found the net nine times from 33. Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli combined well together up front against England, but similar imprecision at the key moments would surely not go unpunished a second time.
Score prediction: Germany 1-1 Italy (after 90 minutes)
The draw at 3.4; Mario Balotelli to score at 3.8; Under 2.5 goals at 1.65