Saturday’s Quarter Final encounter saw two of Europe’s biggest powerhouses go head-to-head for a semi-final place at Euro 2016. Prior to Saturday’s match-up Germany had not beaten Italy in their last 8 attempts at any competitive tournament, but would all that change after this clash between two footballing giants?
The opening 20 minutes didn’t feature too much end-to-end or thrilling action in both goal mouths as Germany seemed to be in control of the game and reduced Italy to defending deep, not like the Italians would have many problems with that. Sami Khedira went off for Bastian Schweinsteiger about 15 minutes into the game due to an injury but this didn’t seem to change the Germans approach as they still looked on top, despite not creating many chances.
It took until the 26th minute for the ball to find the back of the net as Schweinsteiger connected well with a header from a delightful cross, but it was ruled out as he dragged down the Italian defender beforehand and gave away a free-kick.
Italy were constantly on the back foot, but out of nowhere they almost took the lead as the ball fell to Sturaro on the edge of the box, where he then smashed towards goal only for it to be blocked and deflected out by Jerome Boateng for a corner, which came to nothing. Despite the teams being full of quality, both sides went into the break goalless in a very tight and close encounter, as expected.
The start of the second half started off a bit more fluent and open, which Thomas Muller almost capitalised on. He had the ball played across to him in the Italian box and smashed it on the half volley past Buffon, only for Florenzi to make a very crucial defensive block to keep the score at 0-0.
The game was fairly drab throughout but we finally saw a goal in the 65th minute. Mario Gomez displayed some great hold up play and played a lovely intricate pass through the defence towards Jonas Hector who made a deep overlapping run; he then crossed into the box and there was Arsenal’s man Mesut Ozil to poke it home.
Only moments later, Mario Gomez was found in the box from a delightful cross. His touch was poor but he improvised and almost scored a delightful back heel goal but Buffon was on hand to pull off a game-saving stop for the Azzurri.
Germany’s lead only lasted 12 minutes though as in the 77th minute Jerome Boateng gave a way a needless and stupid penalty as he stuck his arms in the air and the ball connected with his arm. Defender Leonardo Bonucci then stepped up and took the penalty brilliantly, smashing it right into the bottom right-hand corner giving Manuel Neuer no chance.
That goal proved crucial for Italy as it was enough for Italy to take the game to extra time.
The first half of extra time was less than eventful. Unfortunately for anyone viewing, there were minimal amounts of chances created and more fouls/cards being shown and you could certainly see player’s frustrations building as they grew more tired. In the hope of changing this, Antonio Conte took off Édér for the talented playmaker Lorenzo Insigne to try and find a spark and outrun the Germans.
The second half of extra time was almost a carbon copy of the first, very minimal amounts of chances and more fouls. Germany had the majority of the ball but just did not have the legs to do anything troubling. Italy were happy to sit back and take the game to penalties and that is exactly what happened after a very draining game of football.
Italy won the toss and the shoot-out was taken in front of the ever passionate Italian fans. Lorenzo Insigne, the substitute, stepped up for the for the first kick of the shoot-out and calmly tucked it past the towering Manuel Neuer.
Despite all the Azzuri fans being behind the goal trying to put nerves on the Germans, they managed to pull through as per usual. Both teams showed so many nerves and the penalties were woeful at the start, but they managed to come back from what seemed an impossible position and reach the semi-finals where they will face either France or Iceland!