Germany v Italy, Sat 2nd July
Bordeaux, Live on BBC - 8pm
If you like to look at sequences when placing your bets, then here’s a stat for you: When Germany meet Italy in Bordeaux in the third UEFA Euro 2016 quarter final on Saturday night they will be looking to put an end to a winless run in competitive matches against the Italians that stretches all the way back to the 1970 World Cup. In fact, Germany have never beaten Italy in a competitive match, and have been beaten by them in three previous semi-finals, including Euro 2012. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a winning sequence which suits the Germans take note of this: Germany have never lost a European Championship quarter final, winning all of their previous encounters to reach the semi final stage on five occasions.
Germany have had a fairly sedate trip to the quarter finals – a comfortable 2-0 victory over Ukraine in their opener, followed up by an uneventful 0-0 draw with Poland in their second game, closely followed by the one of the most one-sided 1-0 victories you’re ever likely to see against Northern Ireland in their final group game. Against Slovakia in the first knock-out round, they eventually burst into life winning 3-0 and finally playing the sort of football that the rest of Europe fears. They’re yet to concede a goal in Euro 2016 and aside from Joachim Löw’s problems with personal hygiene, the Germans look to have few troubles.
Joachim Low still has a fully fit squad at his disposal and it looks likely he’ll field the same line-up that started in the 3-0 victory over Slovakia. 5 players are currently walking a disciplinary tightrope however – the likes of Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, Joshua Kimmich, Sami Khedira and the unlikely Mesut Ozil are all a yellow card away from missing a semi final match against either France or Iceland.
Aside from one off day against Ireland when Antonio Conte made multiple changes to his starting line-up, Italy have looked by far and away Euro 2016’s most competent side. They may lack the star names of previous great Italian sides, but Conte is fast proving himself to be a master tactician, and is getting the absolute best out of the modest group of players he’s working with.
Arguably their performance against Spain in the Round of 16 was the best we’ve seen in the tournament so far. Spain were expected to dominate possession of the ball, but the hard-working Italians completely nullified the Spanish midfield. Sergio Busquets was largely anonymous while Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta were limited to passing sideways. The outstanding Emanuele Giaccherini was a willing runner throughout, and the front two of Pelle and Eder combined brilliantly time and time again to create numerous chances that David De Gea did well to keep out.
Thiago Motta is suspended for the game after picking up his second yellow card of the tournament against Spain. Elsewhere it’s unlikely Antonio Conte will look to make too many changes to the side that dismantled the Spanish, though the Italians do now have a whopping eleven players in their squad who are a single booking away from missing the semi final.
As in the game against Spain, Italy will be up against a side who are expected to dominate possession. This won’t phase the Italians who will be more than willing to sacrifice possession in favour of quick counter-attacking football. As ever, the first goal is crucial, and you feel that whichever side scores it will feel that they can shut out the opposition for the remainder of the game. I think the game will be settled by a single goal, and it could go as far as extra time. The Italians are a real threat from set pieces and I fancy them to score a header from a set piece to settle the tie.
- Italy to win by exactly 1 goal @
- Method of first goal – Header @
- Chiellini to score with a header in 90mins play @
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