By Antony Jordan
We’ve already seen massive, massive drama in the Euro 2016 Quarter Finals so far as Portugal came back from a second minute goal against Poland to triumph in a penalty shootout before Wales upset all the odds and predictions to secure their place in the final four stage with a win over the heavily favoured Belgians.
This Saturday night sees the biggest clash of the Quarter Finals as world champions Germany clash with Italy in Bordeaux looking to secure the first place in the second semi-final, but which of these two sides – who have four Europe Championship titles between them – will move one step closer to another title?
We preview this Germany v Italy match with online sportsbook Bet365.com to provide our best Euro 2016 picks.
To win (90 minutes):
Route to the Quarter Finals:
The German side come into this last eight stage clash as the only side left in the competition who are yet to concede a goal as they topped Group C with seven points ahead of Poland and Northern Ireland before seeing off Slovakia to secure their place in this Quarter Final. They have impressed defensively in this tournament with no goals conceded, although they have needed some inspired defending to keep them at zero goals against, but until they faced Slovakia in the knockout stages they had not been the best side in front of goals as they defeated Ukraine 2-0, including one goal in injury time, drawing 0-0 with Poland and despite creating numerous chances they could only defeat Northern Ireland 1-0. They did net three against a poor Slovakia in the last 16 stage, but can they repeat that performance in this Quarter Final against Italy?
Italy are another side that has not impressed in front of goal in this tournament with just five goals netted in four matches but, just like the Germans, they have looked most impressive defensively in France this summer. They have won three of their four matches so far as they secured top spot in Group E with wins over Belgium and Sweden before losing 1-0 to Ireland after resting the entire first XI. They found themselves as the outsiders in the last 16 stage as they were drawn against reigning champions Spain and Antonio Conte’s men put in one of the performances of the tournament to secure a 2-0 victory and a place in this last eight stage game against the world champions. Italy are arguably the biggest surprise of this tournament after being ripped apart by the Italian media pre-tournament, but with a fantastic set of defensive performances they are now within 90 minutes of a place in the semi-finals.
The Germans ended their match against Slovakia with minor injury doubts over Jerome Boateng, Julian Draxler and Sami Khedira but all three have shaken off these issues to leave Joachim Löw with a full squad to choose from for this vital clash. With Italy having impressed defensively Germany will need this full squad to be performing at their best, with striker Thomas Muller needing to find his goalscoring form most of all, if they’re to live up to their pre-match favourite billing.
Italy are missing Thiago Motta through suspension while winger Antonio Candreva remains injured for this match. As well as this key midfielder Daniele De Rossi is doubtful for this clash and with Motta the ideal replacement for De Rossi the Italians will be severely weakened in the centre of the park. However, with their defence at full strength Italy will certainly have enough no matter what happens in midfield to stage a good attempt at keeping the Germans out. Will it be enough?
Italy have the better record in meetings with the Germans as they have never lost a match in eight clashes at major tournaments, including winning 2-1 at the semi-final stage of the 2012 European Championships. However, the Germans triumphed 4-1 in a friendly match in March of this year in their last meeting, but can they end their torrid run at the Euros and World Cups against the Italians in France this summer?
These two sides are evenly matched with excellent defences and attacks that are just short of the quality shown defensively by both sides and, as a result of this, we can see a close game between these two football giants. A case can be made for both of these sides to win this match, but with Italy having beaten Belgium and Spain so far while Germany have had a much easier route to this stage of the tournament we can see the side that has already shown how good they are against the bigger sides keeping the Germans from progressing to the final four stage, at least in normal time.