Two giants of European football will clash in Warsaw to see who will make the final of Euro 2012. Germany and Italy will meet for the first time in a competitive fixture since the 2006 World Cup semifinal, which the Azzure won 2-0.
The Azzure finished second in Group C, drawing Spain and Croatia, before defeating Ireland to advance to the quarterfinals. The Azzure had to go to penalties, before knocking out England, to advance to the semifinals.
Germany have been perfect so far at Euro 2012, winning all four matches in the tournament. Portugal, Holland, Denmark and Greece have all succumbed to Die Mannschaft, who have looked unstoppable in the competition.
The Germans love to use a 4-2-3-1 formation and will most likely lineup in that same formation for this fixture. Coach Joachim Low’s biggest decision could very well be, who will be his lone striker up front. Both Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose are worthy candidates for that spot on the pitch. However, Gomez is younger and physically stronger so expect him to make the team sheet for Germany. The Bayern Munich striker shares the lead for most goals at Euro 2012, finding the back of the net three times in the tournament.
Mesut Ozil will be the talisman of the midfield for Germany. The Real Madrid star, has been one of the premier players of the tournament, using his slick passing and shrewd decision-making to propel Germany into the semifinals. There are plenty of options for Low as to who will be his wingers. Marco Reus was brilliant in Germany’s quarterfinal win over Greece, bringing pace and quality along the flank. Andre Schurrle started on the right side against Greece, but was substituted in favour of veteran Thomas Muller. Mario Gotze, Lukas Poldoski and Lars Bender are all options in a very deep midfield for Low. He will have a tricky time in who to put on the team sheet.
A question mark for Germany is Bastian Schweinsteiger. The Bayern Munich holding midfielder is nursing an ankle knock and is questionable for the semifinal. If Schweinsteiger can’t play, either Gotze or Bender can move back to holding midfieler. Another option could be Toni Kroos insertion into the starting eleven. Sami Khedira will start as the second holding midfielder. The Real Madrid star, scored a brilliant goal against Greece, and has been a force throughout the tournament.
The back should remain the same for Germany. Philipp Lahm, Holger Badstuber, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng have been steadfast and sturdy in the back for Germany and provide a wall of strength for Die Mannschaft. Manuel Neuer is the last line of defence for Germany. While only recording one clean sheet, Neuer has been solid between the sticks for Germany.
The Italians have used various formations throughout the competition, but have used a 4-1-3-2 formation the last two fixtures. Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano are expected to start, up front for Italy. Balotelli is a temperamental player, who can be brilliant and frustrating in the same game. The Manchester City striker had plenty of scoring opportunities against England, but failed to convert on those chances. Balotelli will need to be more efficient with his chances, if Italy are to reach the final.
The midfield will be playing narrow and concise which is normal for the Azzure. Daniele De Rossi has been excellent for Italy patrolling the left flank. Clauido Marchisio is expected to go down the left channel while Riccardo Montolivo should start in the middle as Thiago Motta and Emanuele Giaccherini are both nursing injuries and are not expected make the team sheet.
The best player for Italy in this tournament has been Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo. Most of the time, Pirlo has been slotted in the holding midfielder position, but Pirlo has joined the attack, and provided quality service for his forwards. Pirlo has been deadly on set pieces, and can control the tempo and pace of the match. He has been nothing short of magnificent in the tournament, and is the main reason why Italy have made it this far.
The back has gone through many changes in the tournament so it is unknown who manager Cesare Prandelli will utilize in the back four. Christian Maggio is suspended for this match after incurring his second yellow card against England on Sunday. Ignazio Abate, Federico Balzaretti, Leonardo Bonucci, and Andrea Barzgali were the starting eleven against England and only Bonucci has started every match in the back for Italy in this tournament.
The last line of defence has the much experience Gianluigi Buffon. The Juventus keeper has recorded clean sheets in the previous two matches, and has been exemplary for the Italians. He needs to be in top form, as Germany aren’t afraid of going forward. Buffon can handle the pressure, but this will be a most difficult task.
Prediction: Italy have shown much better form in this tournament than they did 2 years ago in South Africa at the World Cup. However their lack of finish is a concern and will be problematic. Germany leads the competition with 9 goals and show no signs of slowing down. I see Germany coming away with a 2-1 result and setting up a rematch against Spain in the Finals.
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