Unbeaten in European Championship quarterfinals but winless against Italy in major tournaments, Germany will hope it is that latter record that comes to an end in Saturday’s heavyweight Euro 2016 last eight showdown in Bordeaux.
In eight previous meetings at major competitions, Germany, for all its success, has failed to get the better of its European neighbor. Included among the painful memories are defeats on some huge occasions, not least the 1982 World Cup final. Most recently, Italy upset Germany in the semifinals of Euro 2012 with two goals from Mario Balotelli.
Still, a win over Greece in the previous round four years ago made it three wins out of three in European Championship quarterfinals since the expansion of the competition in 1996. Germany’s record in the tournament is certainly is an impressive one, having claimed the trophy three times along with finishing runner-up twice and reaching two other semifinals.
And Joachim Löw’s current squad will hope that the hoodoo Italy has held over it will have been ended by a 4-1 friendly in Munich in March, which was Germany’s first win over Italy of any kind in 21 years. In Joshua Kimmich, who only made his international debut just ahead of Euro 2016, Germany also has at least one player untainted by past failure against the Azzurri.
“I’m obviously aware that Germany’s head-to-head record with Italy is not particularly positive,” the versatile Bayern Munich player, who is set to start the quarterfinal at right-back, told the German Football Association’s website. “I myself have memories from a few previous encounters. I was eleven years old for the 2006 disappointment and the 2012 match is obviously much fresher in my memory. But that game has nothing to do with Saturday. There are different players on the pitch, the past has no impact or influence on the present.”
And with left-back Jonas Hector having returned to training after illness, Germany will also go into the quarterfinal injury and suspension free. The team is also in fine form. While a lack of cutting edge was evident early on in the competition, notably in a goalless draw with Poland, the introduction to the side of a natural striker in the form of Mario Gómez has reaped major rewards.
The Beşiktaş man scored the winner against Northern Ireland and then another goal in a 3-0 Round of 16 win over Slovakia. But his presence has also opened up space for the technically proficient midfielders behind him. Having found its best form late in the 2014 World Cup, Germany will hope it is now a case of history repeating itself.
However, there is also something familiar with the way Italy is performing at this tournament.
Having arrived in France with limited expectations, Italy is now being talked about as a real contender to go all the way thanks to a combination of shrewd, expertly implemented tactics and a resolute defense. Already at Euro 2016 it has got the better of a hugely talented Belgium team and in the quarterfinals Antonio Conte’s side came out on top against two-time defending champion Spain in a thoroughly deserved 2-0 victory.
Conte will, however, go into the quarterfinal with major concerns about his midfield choices. As well as a suspension that rules out Thiago Motta, there is a major injury doubt about Daniele de Rossi.
Yet, while the midfield and attack maybe thin on stars, it is in defense that an all Juventus backline led by goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon can more than hold its own among the best in Europe. And in Conte, who will take charge of Chelsea for next season, Italy might just have the best coach in the tournament. That, though, is something his counterpart, Löw, for whom the Euro 2012 semifinal represents his greatest disappointment, will be determined to disprove on Saturday.
Kickoff Time: 3 p.m. EDT
TV Channel: ESPN2
Live Stream: Watch ESPN