Not many would have betted on Italy to put up the kind of impressive performance the Azzuris have exhibited so far in the Euro 2016 considering the lack-luster state of the Serie A and the lack of known stars in the team. However, Coach Antonio Conte had been able to turn the team to a force and a world beater. After sending the defending champions-Spain packing, Italy’s next hurdle is world champions-Germany, who have scores to settle after being eliminated before home fans at 2006 World Cup and the last edition of the Euros. With revenge at the back of their mind and the quality of players at Joachim Loew’s disposal, the Azzurris must be at their best to get past The Crusaders.
Germany are determined to snap their tournament losing streak to Italy dating back almost half a century when the two meet in a Euro 2016 quarter-final today in Bordeaux, players said on Wednesday.
The world champions have lost to Italy in every tournament’s knockout match they have played against them, starting from a 1970 World Cup semi-final.
They also lost the 1982 World Cup final, a 2006 World Cup semi-final in Germany and a Euro 2012 semi-final to them.
The Germans, four times World Cup winners like the Italians, have also met Italy on four occasions in group stages of tournaments, drawing every time and failing to record a single win over them.
“We have matured and developed but we know that everything is possible. We know we have to bring a top performance but we are ready, ready to rewrite history,” Germany’s goalkeeping coach Andreas Koepke told reporters.
Germany, who have won just eight of their 33 encounters against Italy since 1923, have yet to concede a goal in their four matches of the tournament and, after winning the 2014 World Cup, are deservedly among the title favourites in France.
Indeed, Germany coach Joachim Loew insists the world champions have no Italian complex as they attempt to break their Azzurri curse in today’s quarterfinal.
German fans will at least take heart from a 4-1 rout of a lacklustre Italy in their most recent meeting in a friendly in March. But Loew knows today’s clash with a place in the last four at stake will be an utterly different proposition. “We have no Italian trauma. We don’t have any fear of them, just trust in our own skills,” Loew said.
In the same vein, Germany defender, Mats Hummels, said they will use painful lessons, learnt from their Euro 2012 defeat to Italy, for today’s quarter-final against the Azzurri.
Hummels knows the onus falls on him and centre-back partner Jerome Boateng to shut down Italy’s attack while Germany are the only quarter-finalists yet to concede a goal.
“We’ve learnt from 2012 that we can’t fall behind, or it will be brutally hard, because they are very flexible with their three or five-man defence. I’d be very happy if we don’t go behind. Like us, Italy are a tournament team and it will be very difficult to beat them,” said Hummels.
Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is unbeaten in his last five games dating back to a pre-Euro 2016 friendly win over Hungary, a Germany record.
It promises to be a busy afternoon against Italy for Hummels, Boateng and Neuer, who will be Bayern Munich team-mates next season, after Italy threw down a marker in their 2-0 last 16 win over Spain.
Despite beating Slovakia 3-0 in an impressive last 16 display, Loew has said his side must improve across the board.
“That’s pretty much the bigger picture. Italy is not Slovakia and we realise that we’ll need to bring more to the table,” agreed Hummels.
He explained how Germany’s water-tight defence in France is down to the whole team, not just their back four.
“We defend very high (up the pitch) and try to keep our opponent away from our goal by pressing them early. It’s a good balance for the whole team,” he said.
However, Italy Captain Gianluigi Buffon claims Italy have proved they can beat anyone after knocking out Spain and had fired a warning to quarter-final opponents Germany that the world champions are next on their hit list.
The 38-year-old Juventus star, was part of the team thrashed 4-0 by Spain in the final of Euro 2012. But he helped Italy get their own back with their first competitive win over the Spanish since 1994.
Buffon said: “This result is very important for us. We’ve shown by beating Spain that we can beat world-class teams. Germany will have to be even better than we were in this game to beat us. We came here full of confidence because we knew what we could achieve in this tournament. We have nothing to fear from anyone else left in the competition.
“After many years of defeats to Spain, we made up for it. Okay, it was only a round-of-16 tie, but it’s better than nothing.There is a long and tortuous road ahead of us and very difficult teams on our path. We cannot yet say that it is a great Euros for Italy, as we’re only in the quarter-finals.
“Having said that, I will not forget that many thought very little of us before the tournament began. We have proved that we were vastly underrated and I am proud of that.”
Italy are a team of few real stars held together by the strict tactical discipline of incoming Chelsea boss Antonio Conte.
Buffon said: “He is an expert tactician and he gets the best out of his players. He is an important coach and we are looking forward to the rest of the tournament now.”
Germany will look to reverse the tide of history when they take on Italy in the third UEFA EURO 2016 quarter-final in Bordeaux.