The rivalry between Italy and Germany has produced some of the most memorable games in the history of football. At the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, Italy beat Germany 4-3 in an alternating match of rare intensity to advance to the finals, against eventual winners Brazil. In Germany in 2006, the hosts Germany lost to eventual world champions Italy, once again in overtime .
While winning 7 World Cups between the two national teams, the "Azzurri" have had the upper hand in head to head confrontations. At the World Cup in South Africa, my Argentine team lost badly to this talented young German team that has had two years to mature. Having won every game so far, Germany is favored to win this semifinal confrontation, but Italy have history and a magnificent Andrea Pirlo to lead them to victory.
Coach Joachim Low has had two days extra to rest his team. Not that he really needed it. Against Greece he left Podolski, striker Gomez, and speedster Muller on the bench. Lazio’s striker Klose, and Schurrle replaced them scoring two of the four goals. The German attack is one of its best features. Low has five potential strikers that are goal scorers in their own right.
Gomez and Klose are powerful headers and natural goal scorers, Podolski, Muller, and Schurrle coming off the bench will give Italian goalie Buffon, and his defenders, headaches if not nightmares. Coach Low favors an offensive team. He likes his team to push up the field, to play quick, and take advantage of lapses in opposing defenses.
The German midfield is powerful. Schweinsteiger is the center leader, who uses his strength to block opponents and re-launch the team. Khedira and Ozil have matured exceptionally under the guidance of Jose Mourinho in Real Madrid. Ozil creates, presses, invents, and has become an exceptional leader of this German team.
If one can pick a weakness in the German machine, it’s the defense. Against Greece, a quick counterattack by Salpingidis and Samaras, exposed Boateng, Batsdubber, and Lahm, and beat a surprised Neuer. If Greece can score on this German defense, so can Italy.
Right back Lahm is an exceptional player, that likes to move up the right flank and assist Muller, and Coach Prandelli will stop him with De Rossi. Similarly Balzaretti likes to move up his right side and surely Coach Low will block him with Boateng.
The Italians are reborn. Coming from their umpteenth scandal they unified as a national team, won games, and advanced to the semi-finals. To show their spirit of sacrifice, they are giving all their prize money to the earthquake victims in Emilia Romagna. This team spirit, along with the experienced leadership of world champions Andrea Pirlo and goalie Luigi Buffon have brought the Azzurri to the semifinals. More columns
Andrea Pirlo has been one of the best players in this European championship, completing an outstanding 114 passes against England, and scoring a incredibly cold spoon-like penalty. He will rise to the occasion versus the Germans. Coach Prandelli has chosen to go with a young defense, Milan's Abate on the right, Juventus Bonucci, Barzagli in the middle, and probably Chiellini on the left .
The Italian midfield is tough and talented. De Rossi, Montolivo, Marchisio, and Diamanti are perfect compliments to the veteran genius of Pirlo, fighting and recovering every ball. It is in offence that Italy has shown difficulties. The Italian forwards Balotelli and Andrea Cassano have scored only one goal each in this championship.
Against England, the forwards had 8 chances, 2 posts and 0 goals. This despite excellent opportunities. Against the Germans, this cannot happen. The forwards will have to take advantage of the few chances they will get if Italy is to upset the speedy Germans.
The key battle of this match will be won in midfield. Will Andrea Pirlo be allowed to take over the game like he did against England? Will young Ozil and Khedira set up their forwards to score? Will the young Azzurri wrest midfield control like they were able to do even with world champion Spain? Will the dominant German forwards run over the Italian defense like they have done in every game so far?
Prandelli is a very smart coach, like Joachim Loew, and like in a chess game, each move will have a counter move. The Italians will try to achieve ball control, defend with order, and hope that Mario Balotelli can finally explode.
The Germans will count on their swift play, the midfield generals creating opportunities for their excellent finishers. This will be an epic semifinal, not to be missed, between two exciting, dynamic teams that will determine the rightful finalist and possibly the ultimate winner of these European championships.Euro 2012