Germany got their Euro 2016 preparations back on track in fine style with a 4-1 win against their bogey side and Euro 2012 runners-up Italy in Munich. In a much-improved performance from a 3-2 defeat to England in Berlin on Saturday, Germany ran out emphatic and fully deserved winners thanks to first-half goals from Toni Kroos and Mario Götze and second-half strikes from Jonas Hector and Mesut Özil. Stephan el Shaarawy’s late deflected goal was scant consolation for the out-classed Italians on a night when they also lost Leonardo Bonucci to a serious-looking injury.
Germany had thrown away a 2-0 lead to go down to defeat three days ago, leading coach Joachim Löw to suggest his team still had much work to do if they were to add the European crown to their World Cup title this summer in France. But a lineup featuring five changes in personnel appeared to heed Low’s words, putting in a much sharper showing.
The victory will be particularly pleasing, too, coming against a country that has ended their hopes on every occasion they have met in a major tournament. Along with a World Cup final and two semifinals, Italy also came out on top in the semifinals of Euro 2012. But in a contest where they equalled their record win over their long-time foes, there was plenty to suggest that Germany can go better this time around as they seek to win their first European title in 20 years.
Certainly they were far too good for Italy at the Allianz Arena. Antonio Conte’s men had impressed in a 1-1 draw with Spain last Friday, with the coach’s 3-4-3 formation proving a particular hit. But against Germany, Italy couldn't get into the game, allowing Germany to dominate proceedings from the off.
The hosts’ first sight of goal arrived just eight minutes in, when a quick break looked to have given Özil a chance, only for Matteo Darmian to get a vital foot in. The opening goal would take just another 16 minutes to arrive, and it came with a touch of class. Thomas Müller’s low cross could only be stabbed away by Bonucci, allowing Kroos to showcase his exemplary technique with a first-time side-footed shot into the bottom corner of Gianluigi Buffon’s net.
Buffon, who had also conceded four times in the same stadium in Juventus’ recent Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich, was picking the ball out of the net once more before halftime. While he had saved from Müller and Julian Draxler, he could do nothing as Götze was somehow allowed to get in between both Matteo Darmian and Alessandro Florenzi to head home another Müller cross.
There was to be little change in the second half, despite the predictable stream of substitutions. Italy had their first real opportunity early in the period, but Riccardo Montolivo couldn’t capitalize, and it wasn’t long before Germany extended their lead. Draxler glided forward through half-hearted Italian challenges, before a one-two with Götze allowed him to lay the ball off for Hector to get his first international goal.
Potentially far more serious for Italy was that in the buildup to the goal Bonucci fell awkwardly trying to turn and had to be carried off on a stretcher. With the Euros just two-and-a-half months away, Conte will be concerned about the prospects for one of his key central defenders.
More misery was to follow for the Azzurri. With 15 minutes left on the clock, Federico Bernadeschi failed to clear a long ball forward, allowing Sebastian Rudy to latch onto it and go past Buffon before being brought down by the veteran goalkeeper. Özil emphatically dispatched the penalty and only a strike from substitute El Shaarawy, which deflected up off Antonio Rüdiger and over Marc-André ter Stegen ,ruined what was otherwise a perfect night for Germany.