Germany confident of breaking Italy jinx
Germans confident poor past record against Azzurri won't linger in their minds during tonight's crucial semi-final clash
Lukas Podolski insists it is time for Germany to end their miserable record against Italy in tournament football.
Germany will go into tonight’s Euro 2012 semi-final having never beaten Italy in seven previous tournament matches.
The last of those was in the final four of the 2006 World Cup in Germany when the Italians scored twice in the dying minutes of extra time on their way to winning the tournament.
Joachim Low’s men will start as favourites tonight, though, having won their four games in Poland and Ukraine so far.
“It’s the time to break that series,” Podolski said in an interview with the Bild newspaper.
“Since 2006 we have improved enormously. Today we have a whole different philosophy and a different team. The Italians also know that.
“One thing is clear — we want to be in the final, so we have to beat the Italians.
“This will hopefully be the end for Italy in this European Champion-ship.”
Podolski was left out of the starting XI for the 4-2 quarter-final win over Greece, with the 21-year-old Andre Schurle preferred, but the Arsenal new boy’s experience is expected to get him the nod against Italy.
Also set to play is midfielder Bastian Schwein-steiger, whom coach Low revealed is fully fit and ready to start the game.
The Bayern Munich player has been struggling with an ankle problem.
“Schwein-steiger had problems, but it’s not as if these were hindering him,” said Low.
No point marking Pirlo
Italy scraped past England on penalties to reach the last four, although they were the better side over the 120 minutes, with midfielder Andrea Pirlo especially impressive. But Low claimed he would not be asking anyone to man-mark the Juventus player. “That would make no sense,” he said.
Balotelli vs Hummels
Volatile striker Mario Balotelli certainly possesses the skill to guide Italy to the final. He will have to employ all of his undoubted technical ability to gain the advantage against the impressive Mats Hummels. The Dortmund defender is comfortable in possession but his strength and excellent reading of the game could be vital against Balotelli.
Gomez vs Barzagli
Andrea Barzagli faces the daunting prospect of facing in-form striker Mario Gomez, who produced matchwinning performances against Holland and Portugal in the group stage and will be itching to return to action after being rested in the quarter-final victory over Greece. Barzagli will have to be strong in the air to suppress Gomez’ threat.
Pirlo vs Schweini
The 33-year-old Andrea Pirlo has lit up the tournament so far with his industrious performances from midfield and is arguably Italy’s most important player. In Schweinsteiger Germany have their own pass master. Schweinsteiger's ability to dictate the tempo of a game should allow the likes of Mezut Ozil and Lukas Podolski to attack the Italy defence.