England fans might not thank me for saying so, but Germany v Italy in the semi final of a major tournament just has a great ring to it, doesn’t it?
The Three Lions will be looking on with a familiar feeling of what might have been following their penalty shoot-out defeat to the Azzurri, but there can be no denying that both Italy and Germany are deserving of their place in the last four and this heaviest of heavyweight clashes is the sort of fixture that defines international tournaments.
With 11 major honours between them, the clash between Europe’s most decorated nations is one to savour and with a place in the final against either Spain or Portugal at stake, tensions are sure to be high in Warsaw come Thursday evening.
Germany, looking to end a 16-year trophy drought, go into the match as favourites with bwin, who price up Joachim Low’s side as 4/5 odds-on shots.
The draw is quoted at 12/5, with the Italians the 15/4 outsiders, and though odds-on in a set-piece semi-final of such importance is not the sort of thing you really want to be getting involved in, I see no reason to deviate from my assertion that Germany are the best side in the competition.
Italy have netted just four in their last seven outings and have scored more than once on just three occasions in their last 12 games. Despite their total dominance of a desperately negative England, they couldn’t find a way through in 120 minutes.
Hence, I will be backing Germany once more. Low has such a wonderful, vibrant and exciting team that he could afford to make three changes, most notably the omission of Mario Gomez, and still overwhelm Greece in what was in all honesty a 4-2 thrashing.
That took Germany’s tally to nine goals in four matches and was their 15th consecutive competitive win – the kind of stats that are ominous for those who stand in their way.
Italy are deserving of their place in the last four, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is a vintage Azzurri side.
Cesare Prandelli has built a useful unit that boasts a strong defence (marshalled by the ever-brilliant Gigi Buffon) and players comfortable in possession (none more so than the peerless Andrea Pirlo) but they lack some stardust. There is no Roberto Baggio-type, no Francesco Totti-style schemer, no genuine goal-getter in the Filippo Inzaghi mould.
It means they struggle to score goals. Italy have netted just four in their last seven outings and have scored more than once on just three occasions in their last 12 games.
Despite their total dominance of a desperately negative England, they couldn’t find a way through in 120 minutes and once more Mario Balotelli proved that he is too unreliable to be fully trusted to make the difference on a consistent basis.
A clinical side would have seen off England well within the distance, but Italy are far from that and while it may seem harsh to brand them average, they certainly don’t boast the talent of Germany and there is no way Pirlo will be allowed to dictate the play the way he did against England.
That is not to say Germany will have it easy, of course. Italy know how to make themselves hard to beat in these situations better than most and have conceded just two goals in four Euro 2012 games, which, when you consider Germany managed to let in two against Greece, is a fine record.
But other factors will come into play, such as Germany’s extra two days to prepare and Italy’s energy-sapping 120 minutes against England (although their fatigue could have been far worse had they not monopolised possession so convincingly).
All told, I think Germany will confirm their superiority at the 4/5 on offer. If that price is a bit on the short side for you, take the 5/4 that Germany win a game featuring three goals or fewer.
Italy need to keep it tight and are more than capable of doing so, but I think Germany’s creativity will see them secure a place in the final.
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