Germany take on Italy in the second semi-final of Euro 2012. Spain are already in the final so the battle is on to see who faces them. Both coaches have stated they will stick to their philosophies and expected it to be an attacking game. Hopefully we will see some goals in this game after yesterdays 0-0 draw. Both managers have some decisions to make before this match but here is how both sides might line-up.
- The biggest problem for Italy is who will score the goals? Against England they were clearly the dominate side but could not convert their chances. Mario Balotelli looks certain to start as his physicality could unsettle the defensive pairing of Badstuber and Hummels. Who will partner him? Antonio Cassano started the match against England well but went missing in the second half, his fitness seems as a concern. Di Natale or Giovinco are striking options or even Antonio Nocerino who had an impressive cameo when he came on against England.
- In defense there are some injury worries over Ignazio Albate at right back but he should start but the big call is whether to reinstall Giorgio Chiellini into the back four after a hamstring injury. Manager Prandelli could stick with the partnership of Barzagli and Bonucci and start Chilellini at left-back a role that he has played for Juventus.
- Thiago Motta is another injury doubt but could start in place of Montoivo if deemed fit to add more defensive cover to counter the attacking flair of the German midfield.
- Andrea Pirlo is obviously the main fulcrum for everything good Italy does but it would be very unlikely he will be offered the same space and time that he enjoyed against England. He will remain influential during this match but probably nowhere near to the extent against this highly organized German side.
- Forget about the stereotypes you have come to expect from an Italian side, boring, playing defensive. Cesare Prandelli has done a fantastic job to turn this side around since the awful 2010 World Cup campaign. They don’t play like Spain or Brazil but this is a more attacking Italian side. The thing to admire about Prandelli is that he always sets out his teams to win the match when in the past Italian sides might have played for a draw or a simple 1-0. Against Spain in their opening match even though a 1-1 draw is a fair result against the current champions, Italy never shut-up-shop and continued to attack. Against England they continued to press for a winner in extra-time when simply running the clock down may have been a better option.
- Manager Joachim Low sprang a surprise against Greece by shuffling his pack and dropping his three attackers- Gomez, Podolski and Muller and brought in Klose, Reus and Shurrle. All three combined well against Greece and arguably preformed better than the players they replaced. Low now has to decide whether to stick with these players or change the team up again.
- Klose was chosen ahead of Gomez as his movement seemed a better option to disrupt a rather stagnant Greek defense but against Italy Gomez physical presence may be better suited in this match. Against Ireland Italy looked a bit unsettled when they were pressed hard and had to deal with a more physical side. There is an argument that you should pick Klose because he is more likely to track the movements of Pirlo, a role I couldn’t see Gomez do but that in turn leaves no striker up front and could lead to him getting in the way of Ozil who likes to play in the space behind the striker.
- Podolski and Muller have both been quite so far this tournament and while Shurrie and Reus missed a few chances against Greece they were still getting into the right positions and one of them should start against Italy. It could all depend on how Italy line up, if Chiellini starts at left-back then the pace and trickery Reus could see hims start.
- Bastain Schweinsteiger was poor against Greece. He took too long on the ball and got dispossessed a few times and his passing wasn’t up to his usual standard. He has had an injury cloud hanging over him after picking up an ankle injury. With young Bayern Munich team-mate Toni Kroos itching to be involved in the side it may not be a shock to see Schweinsteiger on the bench. Kroos has been a revelation in the season just past, becoming a first choice player for Bayern in midfield at only 22 years of age.
- In defense Jerome Boateng is perceived as the weak link, he was at fault for both of Greece’s goals. He failed to get the right side of Samaras when Greece counter-attacked and gave away a penalty late in he match. Lars Bender started at right-back against Denmark and went on to score the winner in that match. A return to the starting line-up could be on the cards.
- Italy are seen as bogey-side for the Germans as they haven beaten them in seven previous competitive matches. The most recent loss being in the 2006 World Cup semi-final that Italy won 2-0 in extra time. Low has dissmissed claims this could be a factor in the game stating that this is a young squad and that there are only four members that remain from that night (Podolski, Lahm, Schweinsteiger and Klose). This is the youngest team at the Euros and the future for the German national team looks very bright no matter what happens against Italy.
Buffon has said that the strength of Italy is that they always keep the game tight, they are always in with a chance of winning it. But he also pointed out it is their greatest flaw as well as the other side are in the game jus as much. Germany have been impressive in this tournament and they seemed to finally get out of second gear against Greece but you can sense there is still more to come from this side.
Both sides will look to attack and it should lead to a more open game. The match could turn into a midfield battle with Italy maintaining their diamond in the middle and Germany having their trio of Ozil, Khedira and Schweinsteiger circulating the ball around the team. The two managers will look to spring a surprise when the line-ups are announced. Italy could go back to the 3-5-2 formation that they tried out at the start of the tournament while Low could again use the strength of his squad and changing he personal.
Germany are the favourites and I expect them to fully justify that status. Italy will be competitive, it’s just a case of can they take their chances? Germany 2 Italy 0.