For 120 minutes Italy dominated an ultra-conservative England side. The woodwork was struck twice, the offside flag halted celebrations as the ball finally hit the back of the net, but after 35 shots, the Azzurri could not register a goal.

A victory on penalty kicks brought a euphoric reaction but as the dust settled, Italian coach Cesare Prandelli must quietly have fretted over his side's inability to turn their fine play outside the box into goals. Mario Balotelli had a fine match; he never gave the English central defenders a moment's peace and looked a menacing presence in the box. Yet the maverick striker failed to make the most of the several opportunities that fell his way.

Like Balotelli, the rest of Italy's forward contingent possess undoubted quality, but there remain doubts over their ability to become a decisive factor in tight games against true quality opposition.

Antonio Cassano, who has started each of Italy's matches so far, has in many ways exceeded expectations at this tournament. Another controversial figure, Cassano came into Euro 2012 having only returned to first-team action with Milan in April following heart surgery last November.

The 29-year-old looked in fine fettle as Italy's impressive performance against Spain owed much to his causing problems drifting in behind the Spanish full backs.

But in that game as in each match since, Cassano's performance dropped off before he was inevitably substituted. Having played 78 minutes on Sunday, there must be doubts over the former Sampdoria star's ability to be at full fitness against Germany.

There is even a suggestion that Alessandro Diamanti may get his first start of the competition as a true trequartista having impressed against England after replacing Cassano.

Prandelli's other selection dilemmas against Germany are in the key area of midfield. Last time out Italy began with a narrow four, with Riccardo Montolivio making his first appearance of these finals at the head of a variation on a diamond.

There is likely to be a strong temptation for Prandelli to start with Antonio Nocerino, after the Milan midfielder look a real threat breaking into the box after coming off the bench late on against England. But it could be Thiago Motta that comes in to offer a better defensive option against the Germany's intimidatingly-strong midfield three.

Germany has been dominant in the middle of the pitch so far at Euro 2012. Sami Khedira has demonstrated that he is much more than just a tough defensive presence as he is often restricted to at Real Madrid. Alongside him Bastian Schweinsteiger has perhaps not yet reached his peak, but showed his quality with two fine assists to Mario Gomez against the Netherlands.

At the head of the trio, Mesut Ozil's displays have been the pick of the bunch as he has looked imperious going forward. The young player that burst onto the world stage two years ago is now a controlling fulcrum of this side.

Against Greece some of the one-touch link up play he was involved in with the exceptional movement of those around him was a joy to behold. This is a German side that has moved on considerably from the counter-punching outfit of the 2010 World Cup.

Yet Joachim Low is far from resting on the laurels of what his side has achieved thus far. In the quarterfinal with Greece, the long-standing coach left out two of the stalwarts of his side in Lukas Podolski and Thomas Muller in favor of youngsters Andre Schurrle and Marco Reus.

Particularly with Reus the move paid dividends as Germany produced some scintillating attacking football. Not only was the move perhaps a wakeup call to any overly contented members of his own squad, but it was also a demonstration to the competition of the awesome strength in depth they possess. Certainly, in Europe, only Spain can come close to the wealth of options at their disposal.

Also impressive in the quarterfinal was Miroslav Klsoe. The veteran front man came in for his first start of the competition and scored a typically headed goal to stake his claim to be named ahead of Mario Gomez against Italy.

The talent that Germany can count on to threaten in the box is what could well the difference in this semifinal.

Germany has looked far from impregnable at the back. Conceding two goals despite dominating a limited Greek side will not have please Low. While part of their porousness can be attributed to the team's attacking ethos, there are also doubts about some of the individuals in the German defense.

Jerome Boateng has looked especially vulnerable playing out of his Bayern Munich position at right back, while there is a feeling that Mats Hummels and Holger Badstuber are not yet a rock solid pairing in the middle. The question remains whether Italy can exploit the openings that may come their way.

In what promises to be an entertaining matchup featuring two positive-minded teams, chances should not be at a premium. Yeah it is likely that Italy's lack of firepower up front will finally cost them as Germany's greater attacking threat will be the difference in a close encounter.