This game will kick-off tonight at 19:45 GMT.
Team News and Formation:
There was an element of surprise in Lowe’s selection choice for the quarter-final match against Greece by benching Podolski, Muller and Gomez. For this reason it is difficult to fully know what he will do tonight but I expect Podolski to come back in to the starting line-up as Schurlle did not impress against the Greeks. Reus on the other hand had a very strong performance so there is a chance he could retain his place ahead of Muller on the right. Klose still didn’t look fully match fit so it is likely Gomez will come back and regain his place in the team.
Prandelli will be sweating and praying over the injuries to Chiellini, De Rossi and Abate. Thiago Motta will be back and that will be a massive bonus for the Italians as he adds an extra element of security and power to the midfield. If Chiellini is passed fit, Prandelli will have the option to play Chiellini at left-back, a role he played a considerable chunk of the season with Juventus. Balzaretti’s strong performances since coming in to the squad make this unlikely.
This will be a mouth-watering encounter. Pirlo put in the individual display of the tournament against England but tonight the Germans will make it much harder for him to be so influential again. The English two flat banks of four allowed the Italian players to exploit spaces in between the lines and in trying to combat this England started to sit deeper and deeper to compact the space Italy could find. Loew’s formation is nowhere near as flat as England’s, making it even more difficult to exploit pockets of space in between. It also seems quite natural that Ozil will be given the role to keep an eye on Pirlo at every given chance seen as they both play in similiarly areas of the pitch. Most of the Italian possession is also funnelled through the full-backs but in this game the German wide men will have them pinned back and they will be granted no where as much space as the English allowed them.
Germany have had two extra days rest for this match and that could prove the decisive stroke of it all. Italy slugged out a gruelling fight to the death with England only a few days.
Key Men – Italy
If he were fully fit I would’ve chosen Daniele De Rossi as one of Italy’s key players but his injury will hamper him badly (if he is fit passed to play). So the first player I will choose is Gigi Buffon. There is so much dynamism and creativity that I just can’t not see them creating chances. For this reason Buffon will have to be impeccable tonight against the chances the Germans do create. In the Italian squad there is also a lack of experience the very top-level. Buffon’s experience and leadership will be immense in marshalling his team-mates in trying to steer past the Germans.
Mario Balotelli is the other Italian I imagine could be made a hero tonight. Germany will play a higher line than England did against Italy and there will be space for Balotelli to roam in to behind the defence if Pirlo can find him. His pace will most likely end up being the biggest Italian threat.
Key Men – Germany
Mesut Ozil will have a number of pivotal tasks to perform tonight. He is the main source of creativity in the final third for Lowe’s men and although his goalscoring record is something he is criticized for, the opportunities he births in the big games cannot go understated. Pirlo’s position also falls naturally into Ozil’s and he may be given the task to suffocate any life Pirlo tries to breathe into this game.
Just like the Greeks did, the Italians may single out Ozil and have him tightly watched in every German spell of possession. If this is the case then the box-to-box style of Sami Khedira will be crucial. His attacking ability and runs from deep is a part of his game he is rarely given credit for, and without his running power and tenacity the German midfield lack edge and his importance in this system is undervalued.
The past two games in the tournament have thrown us two 0-0’s. I can’t see this being the case tonight. The Germans on paper are significantly stronger than the Italians but in tournaments that isn’t always enough. There is one statistic that makes me doubt what I believe should be a German win. The stat I’m referring to is that Italy have not lost a knock-out game in 90 minutes since 1988.
Germany 2-1 Italy