Germany finally solved the Italian riddle and reached the semi-finals of the Euro Cup as they beat the Azzurri 6-5 after a host of penalty shootouts in the biggest quarter-final of the competition on Sunday.
With the win, Die Mannschaft registered their first ever competitive win against Italy. The extended shootout saw a total of 18 penalties out of which Germany scored 5 while Italy could manage only four. The shootout became a tense affair as the biggies of Germany, Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger missed their spot-kicks while Italy got left behind due to the fumbles of Simone Zaza, Graziano Pelle, Leonardo Bonucci and Matteo Darmian.
Germany have now reached their sixth consecutive semi-final in a major tournament and will face the winner of the last quarter-final between France and Iceland that will take place on Monday.
Germany played with the formation of 3-5-2 for the first time in the tournament to tackle the exact formation that Italy have been using all tournament. That did look a bit troubling for the Germans as the midfielders, many a times, were unable to take the correct positions. Despite that, the formation did help Germany control the Italian forwards and gave Italy very less room to penetrate.
The first half was cagey as it took the teams over 40 minutes to produce a real chance. In the 42nd minute, Mats Hummels did beautifully on the left to place the ball perfectly for Muller but as dead as Muller has been throughout, his shot was weak and never troubled Buffon who easily collected the ball.
Following the German attack, Italy surged forward in the 44th minute and an excellent long ball by Bonucci found Emanuele Giaccherini whose shot got blocked but the ball lay off for Stefano Sturaro who struck on target but a little flick by Jerome Boateng saw it away.
As the second half went underway, the Germans saw much more of the ball and looked comfortable in their skin. Their constant efforts at the goal bore fruit as Ozil found the net in the 65th minute. It was the beauty of Gomez’ feet that saw to the goal.
Following his excellent and walled stint throughout the game, Boateng made a horrific error of flying his arms out while defending against Chiellini in the 78th minute and the ball hit his arm. Bonucci fired the resulting penalty into the bottom right corner to get back Italy in the game.
Following the goal, Italy came to life at once and in the 80th minute, a quick break made way for Pelle to find the goal but his shot got deflected wide. Again in the 88th minute, Sciglio had a chance to win the game for Italy but his strike found only the side net.
After an uneventful extra time, the penalties saw Lorenzo Insigne, Andrea Barzagli, Giaccherini and Marco Parolo score for Italy while Boateng got his redemption for the handball when he netted the penalty and the rest of the spot kicks were converted by Toni Kroos, Julian Draxler, Hummels, 21-year-old Joshua Kimmich, and the decisive one Jonas Hector.
The final penalty by Hector went from just below Buffon’s body and it could have been saved and that is what showed on Buffon’s face as gloominess took over him post the match.
A moment of absolute sportsman spirit was witnessed by the spectators when Italian captain Gianluigi Buffon immediately went to the German players and congratulated them.
• Germany had never previously beaten Italy at a major finals — a run stretching back to the 1962 World Cup.
• Germany haven’t lost a penalty shootout since 1976 European Championship final against Czechoslavakia.
• It was the first time since1982 that Germany missed a penalty in the shootout.
• When Ozil scored in the game, it was the first time at a major tournament, that Italy was trailing against Germany.
• Germany hadn’t conceded a single goal in the tournament before the quarter-final against Italy.