Euro 2016: Germany looks to tame ′wounded dog′ Italy | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 01.07.2016
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Euro 2016: Germany looks to tame 'wounded dog' Italy

Will Saturday be when Germany ends its Italian jinx? Germany has never beaten Italy in a tournament, but the Italians are in the midst of a midfield injury crisis. This could be Germany's best chance to end the pain.

For Germany, there has never been a good time to face Italy. The Azzurri are considered their bogey team, a side that has consistently destroyed hopes of silverware.

Both nations are classed as traditional tournament teams, outfits which manage to eke out wins when they aren't playing their best football and turning up when it matters most.

Yet Italy is a cut above Germany when it comes to the head-to-head record.

The figures have been widely publicized leading into Saturday's quarterfinal, but their significance never wanes – Italy has won four and drawn four of the eight competitive fixtures played against Germany. It is a dominant record.

The statistics are not pretty, but there is hope. Not least in the most recent fixture between these two teams, played earlier this year on March 29 in Munich.

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Germany vs. Italy: A game fit for a final

Germany emerged 4-1 victors, with Toni Kroos, Mario Götze, Jonas Hector and Mesut Özil grabbing the goals and ending a 21-year barren winless spell.

"It doesn’t mean anything to me that we have never beaten Italy in a big tournament," midfielder Kroos said ahead of Saturday's quarterfinal.

"They are the best team we will have faced here. I'm looking forward to the game and I’m very optimistic."

Germany getting better

Coach Joachim Löw has seen his side grow into the tournament, something they are renowned for, and has resolved problem areas along the way. The introduction of 21-year-old Joshua Kimmich at right-back has given Germany a more balanced feel, the Bayern Munich utility man's ability in both defense and attack a much-needed addition.

Elsewhere, false nine Götze has been dropped in favor of a traditional No.9 in Mario Gomez, giving Germany an aerial presence who can capitalize on balls swung into the box. Add Julian Draxler's superb performance against Slovakia and captain Bastian Schweinsteiger's return to full fitness, and Germany is looking strong.

While Germany is finding cohesion in their own style of play, their opponents could find themselves forced to change their own. Heading into the fixture, Italy resemble a wounded dog, at least in midfield.

Injury concerns for Conte

Before the tournament coach Antonio Conte was already stripped of two influential central midfielders, Marco Verratti and Claudio Marchisio, who would have been near certain starters.

Now, with Italy having produced some of the most impressive performances of Euro 2016, Conte will have to do without the fulcrum of this success – Daniele De Rossi.

Against Spain, De Rossi was masterful in the regista role. He nullified the influence of Sergio Busquets, which stemmed Spain's ability to produce their dazzling passing game. He was also responsible for kick-starting Italy's forays forward.

UEFA EURO 2016 Deutschland Training

Mario Gomez has added a different dimension to Germany's play

Yet De Rossi limped off with a thigh injury in that match and is highly doubtful for Saturday’s quarterfinal. His replacement against Spain, Thiago Motta, is suspended. Midfielder Antonio Candreva is also out injured.

Without his two obvious defensive midfield options, Conte needs a Plan B.

Reports suggest Marco Parolo could drop deeper with Stefano Sturaro coming off the bench to play further up the pitch. Conte is also believed to be considering a shift from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2.

But if there is one manager to pull off an effective tactical switch, it is Antonio Conte.

"Conte would be on the pitch with us if he could be," defender Mattia De Sciglio said.

"He has taught us to fight for every inch. Fighting for every ball is our strength as we do not possess superstars."

Italy may be partially wounded, but this old dog still has plenty of mongrel and will not be tamed easily. Germany will have to be at their best to defeat a highly organized and motivated team, and banish the hoodoo that has haunted them since 1970.

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