National Teams

EURO 2016: Mentally Strong Germans Send Italian Gladiators Home

BORDEAUX, FRANCE - JULY 02: Germany celebrate following the penalty shoot out during the UEFA Euro 2016 Quarter Final match between Germany and Italy at Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux on July 2, 2016 in Bordeaux, France. (Photo by Chris Brunskill Ltd/Getty Images)
EURO 2016: Mentally Strong Germans Send Italian Gladiators Home

The UEFA Euro 2016 Quarter-Final. Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux. Germany against Italy. A real clash of the titans.

Three time winners and current world champions Germany were many people’s favourite to win the tournament beforehand, however Antonio Conte’s men have put on a real show this summer in France, from blitzing Belgium in the group stages to brushing the current European Champions Spain aside in the second-round.

Both teams lined up in a 3-5-2 formation, Joachim Low’s young side was captained by Manuel Neuer in goal and led by Thomas Muller behind Mario Gomez in attack; The 30-year-old striker watched from home as his nation lifted the 2014 World Cup trophy, yet a loan move from Fiorentina to Besiktas saw the talisman find his best form once more, netting a cool 26 goals in only 33 appearances.

 

The ‘Azzurri’ back-three of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonnucci and Giorgio Cheillini all play their club football at Italian Champions Juventus, and with a combined age of 95, they provide protection for the legend Gianluigi Buffon in goal behind them.

Bologna‘s Emanuele Giaccherini drifted forward in the early stages of the encounter in search of linking up with the front-two of Graziano Pelle and Inter‘s Eder in attack. Marco Parolo and Stefano Sturaro swept up in the deep central areas behind.

As the first-half unfolded, clear-cut chances were few and far between. This was a game of tactical cat and mouse. You move, we move.

Die Mannschaft attempted to free Bayern Munich‘s starlet Joshua Kimmich down the right-hand flank, yet crosses were snuffed out and the ‘Old Lady’s’ backline was justifying the trust that their managers have put in them over the years; proving to be quite the wall, blocking, heading and clearing everything that came their way.

It was a battle of the full-backs and Germany’s were coming out on top of Italy’s Mattia De Sciglio and Alessandro Florenzi.

Inside the early moments of the second-period, Germany altered their approach by switching to more direct passes to Gomez, hoping that attackive players around him could link up.

As a the 6-foot-2-inch target latched onto a long pass by Neuer, he out-muscled surrounding bodies in blue to slide in the forever overlapping Jonas Hector whose cross was deflected into the path of Arsenal‘s Mesut Ozil who made no mistake, firing home to put Germany 1-0 up.

Germany were well in control and the 27-year-old had began to get a grip of the game, dictating play and two minutes later, a glorious pass to Gomez was followed by one of the saves of the century by veteran goalkeeper Buffon. Quite phenomenal reactions by the 38-year-old stopper who is a true legend in Italian football.

Just as it looked as though it was going to be Low’s men that went on to control the encounter and book their place in the semi-final, madness struck. The madness was in fact in the head of central defender Jerome Boateng and teammates looked on in bemusement when the Bayern Munich man leapt to defend a throw-in with both arms in the air, giving away a penalty and a free ticket back into the game to the Italians. Bonucci did the honors with 12 minutes remaining.

Extra time was played out and the older, more experienced Italy took advantage of every opportunity to waste time, seeing penalties as their best opportunity to beat the young, athletic Germans. Wolfsburg‘s Julian Draxler‘s overhead-kick drifted inches over the bar and penalties it was to be.
Substitute Lorenzo Insigne went first for Italy and scored comfortably, as did Real Madrid‘s Toni Kroos who followed. Zaza (Italy) and Muller (Germany) both missed and as Draxler failed to hit the target, Southampton’s Pelle had the opportunity to wrap it up but dragged his kick well wide of the target.
A total of 18 spot-kicks were taken with Manchester United‘s Bastian Schweinsteiger also passing upon the chance to blast the Germans through and when his club teammate Matteo Darmian‘s effort was saved excellently by Neuer, it was on FC Koln‘s Jonas Hector to guide his nation into the last four. His left-footed kick somehow wriggled under the body of Buffon and the Germans were home and dry.
An incredible end to an intense, tactical, chess-like tie. Once more, the Italians went home after a penalty-shootout, yet Conte’s men can land in Rome as gladiators with their heads held high.
The Germans finally put the hoodoo of never beating Italy in a tournament to bed and it would take a brave man to bet against this hungry, athletic machine of tactically meticulous, mentally vigorous competitors to go all the way and lift their fourth European Championship now.

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National Teams
@alexclapham

An Englishman that is a coach and analyst within the youth academy of a Spanish club whilst studying Sports Coaching. Obsessive over the tactical concepts of the European game, Alex regularly attends games in the La Liga, Bundesliga and Serie A.

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