Germany's national soccer team coach Joachim Loew plays with a ball during a practice session for the Euro 2012 at the stadium in Warsaw June 27, 2012. Germany will play a semi-final of the Euro 2012 soccer championships against Italy on Thursday June 28, 2012. (Photo : REUTERS/Pascal Lauener)
Unlike Wednesday's semi finals match, Thursday's game will be highlighted by the battle of two traditional superpowers.
However, both teams are currently being perceived differently by pundits and media around the world.
Germany lost in the 2002 World Cup Final to Brazil. In 2006, they hosted the World Cup and were defeated in the semi-finals by the Italians before winning third place against Portugal. In 2008, they marched to the finals of the Euro Cup before losing to the Spanish Juggernaut. Two years later those same Spanish ended a triumphant German tournament in South Africa in the semi-finals. Now Germany is looking to redeem itself and finally win that elusive trophy for the first time in over two decades.
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The fascinating thing about the Germans is that they are always a contender. Their ability to transition their youth into the system to be contributors is a testament to their incredible philosophy and set up. They have been the most impressive side of this tournament, filled with youth and experience as well as a drive to win it all. They are the only team to win all four games thus far and will look to add a fifth against a weak Italian side.
The Germans only seem to have hit their stride after an impressive 4-2 win over a stolid Greek defense. Their previous wins over Portugal, Netherlands, and Denmark were equally impressive, though it was clear that Germany was not in best form. Look for them to be at their highest motivation when they meet Italy.
Italy has gone in the other direction since winning it all in the 2006 World Cup. They had a mediocre Euro 2008 and followed it up with a dreadful World Cup 2010 in which they did not even make it out of the Group Stage.
Expectations were muted for Italy as they entered group play against Spain, Ireland, and Croatia. In their first match against mighty Spain, Italy shut down the potent offense of the Iberians and took a 1-0 lead. Spain tied the game, but Italy made them look ordinary. They played a less respectful draw with Croatia before finally winning 2-0 against a dreadful Irish side.
However, their penalty shootout win over England was disappointing for the Italians who out chanced the English time and again, but could never finish. The English barely had the ball in the match and Italy seemed uncomfortable finally being the possessor for the majority of the match. They will need to be better in finishing their chances if they are to extend their unbeaten streak in eight games against the Germans.
Player to Watch for Germany
Jerome Boateng has had a dreadful tournament thus far and may be the weak link of the Germans. Through group play he went relatively unscathed, but he paid against the Greeks as his inability to cover Georgias Samarus led to the Greeks tying the game 1-1 in the early part of the second half. He eventually also caused a penalty shot in the waning moments even though the game was out of reach.
If Italy deploys Mario Balotelli, Boateng will have the thankless task of marking the striker. Balotelli has been mediocre in this tournament, but he has shown flashes of brilliance. Balotelli is Italy's greatest scoring threat and if Boateng plays the way he did against Greece, Germany may be facing a nightmare.
If Balotelli is not the man for Italy, then Antonio Cassano will be and he comes with even more problems for the German defense. Boateng will need to be at his finest to stop the few chances Italy will have.
Player to Watch for Italy
If he starts, Balotelli is the man for the Italians. He had a plethora of chances to end the English and failed on each one. He was terrible in the match, but has the potential to turn it around when necessary. He scored a beauty against Ireland that shows off his scoring prowess. If he is alert and plays to his capacity, the German defense will have a tougher task than expected.
It hones in on the task at hand and plays with the aggressive soccer/football everyone knows they are masters of. They have the depth to score and the better skill, they just need to keep their emotions in check and focus on piercing through the Italian defense. Mesut Ozil has improved enormously throughout the tournament and will be a major factor in chiseling lanes through the Italian wall.
It converts on the counterattack. Let's face it. Italy will not control possession, they lack the skill of the Germans and they have been dreadful offensively. They have only scored four goals through four games; Germany scored four against Greece and has nine goals from seven different players. When Italy gets their counterattack, they need to bury it. If they blow their opportunities the way they did against an inept English side, they stand no chance against the far superior German side.
Prediction: No sense in going against the grain here. Germany wins this one 2-0. Thomas Muller finally scores his first goal and Ozil adds an assist somewhere in there. The Germans dominate the game and have more chances but Italy's keeper Gianluigi Buffon shows off his class.
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