With Spain securing the first spot in the final with a penalty shoot-out, the world now turns to see who their opponents will be. Germany, as favourites to win the Euros outright, are unbeaten so far in the tournament, despite being in a group also containing Portugal and Holland. Italy meanwhile have surprised many with their ability; continuing to overcome troubles within their domestic game. Whatever the result, a competitive game is almost ensured.
Germany head into the Semi Finals having won every game in the tournament so far, as well as claiming 10 wins from 10 in qualifying; a European Championship record. They have proven themselves worthy of their favourites tag; beating Portugal, Holland, Denmark and Greece on their way to the clash with Italy. Striker Mario Gomez has 3 goals to his name so far and seems favourite to be Top Goalscorer overall after Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit from the competition. Germany have not had to rely on him for goals however, with Klose, Podolski and Khedira among the names adding to Germany’s tally.
As such, Germany on paper look comfortable. Having rested Gomez, Podolski and Muller against Greece, Germany’s preferred attacking trio will be fit and ready to face Italy. Klose and Reus have proved they can also lead Germany’s attack if someone is under performing. In midfield, Germany rely on Schweinsteiger and Khedira to work for the team; chasing opponents and supplying the attack. They will be desperate for these two men to do their best to give Pirlo little time on the ball. Mesut Özil will be the creative source for Germany, playing just behind Podolski and Muller. Expect Özil to also be a threat at Italy’s goal with the ability to strike from range. In defence, Germany have looked shaky, particularly against Greece in the Quarters. Jérôme Boateng conceded a penalty and was also at fault for the Greek equaliser; Italy will be looking for a repeat performance from him. Germany will be relying on Hummels and Lahm to keep their defence strong against the Italian threat, though goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is arguably the best in his position in the world and can always be relied on as a last resort.
Italy entered the tournament as massive underdogs after a poor series of matches pre-tournament and match fixing problems arising again within Serie A. So far however, they’ve proved their doubters wrong. A 1-1 draw against champions Spain in their first game surprised many people. Against Croatia, Italy threw away a 1-0 lead with a lack of ambition, but they came back to beat Ireland 2-0 in the final game and secure a Quarter Final match against England. Italy proceeded to outplay England and secure a Semi Final spot with a penalty shoot-out.
Italy’s main man Andrea Pirlo has defied criticisms of his age and speed all season with Juventus and proved against England that he is still one of the best playmakers in the world. Against Germany, he will have to pull all the strings if Italy will hope to advance to Sunday’s final. However, Pirlo is part of an excellent three man midfield for Italy. Daniele De Rossi and Claudio Marchisio may be overshadowed by Pirlo’s brilliance but they are a vital part of Italy’s team. De Rossi’s tackling can be inch perfect at times and, as evidenced by his curling strike against England, he can be a goal threat as well. This is good, as Italy do lack options in attack. Mario Balotelli continues to divide opinion with some poor performances and Antonio Cassano has failed to impress so far. Antonio Di Natale scored a vital goal against Spain but continues to be sidelined in favour of Balotelli. With Di Natale in their team, Italy have looked stronger in attack and Di Natale could prove to be a key player against Germany if given the chance. Italy will be hoping that centre back Giorgio Chiellini will be fit to start against Germany after a problem with his thighs keeping him out of the England game, although Bonucci and Barzagli have proved to be able replacements.
Ultimately, it may come down to the performances of key players being the deciding factor in this match. If Germany’s front three are playing to the best of their abilities, it will be hard for Italy to prevent them from scoring. However, if Pirlo is playing at his best, he can create chances for Italy. If they are less wasteful then they were against England, anything can happen.
Verdict: Germany win 1-0, though it could easily go either way.