4 Key Battles Which Could Define Saturday's Euro 2016 Clash Between Italy and Germany
Easily the most high-profile of the four quarter-finals this week, with the reigning world champions facing off against the team who knocked out the competition holders in the previous round.
Only one team can progress to face either France or Iceland in the semi-final. It. Is. On.
4. Thomas Muller vs The Curse
Thomas Muller has scored a lot of goals. 32 from 75 games for Germany at the age of just 26, including 10 in just two World Cups.
His World Cup record would hint at him being a fearsome tournament footballer…but he’s still yet to score at the European Championships. Ever. Saturday night’s game will be his 10th Euros match across two tournaments, and the Bayern man is beginning to look increasingly frustrated.
He’s likely to be playing off Mario Gomez once again – and will be doing everything he can do find the back of the net and break his unfortunate run.
3. Antonio Conte vs Joachim Löw
Two of the most highly regarded managers in the tournament will do battle on the sidelines in Bordeaux – Conte’s passion and tactical brilliance coming up against Löw’s unflappable exterior.
Löw has yet to quite figure out his best arrangement of forwards in the tournament, with Mario Gomez and Julian Draxler coming into the starting lineup since last month’s kickoff.
Conte, on the other hand, has his side pretty much nailed down – especially that fearsome back three, who will be set up expertly to blunt the German threat. The entire match could hinge on who gets their tactics right.
2. Gianluigi Buffon vs Manuel Neuer
Okay, so the two aren’t likely to face off against each other directly (not even Neuer comes that far up the pitch), but the goalkeeper’s position could be an absolutely key one as two giants of the game face off.
Even at 38-years-old, Buffon remains one of the top handful of goalkeepers in the world, possibly matched only by David de Gea, Hugo Lloris and Neuer himself.
Both men are absolute talismans for their respective teams, although Buffon claimed this week that it would be ‘offensive’ for him to put himself in the same bracket as the German. Kidology, or is he really just that modest?
1. Joachim Löw vs Temptation
More than once in this tournament, the German manager has been seen doing, well, slightly unorthodox things on the sidelines.
A rummage around his undercarriage in Germany’s opening win against Ukraine was followed up by a sniff of his hand, which he didn’t even try to disguise. More antics of that kind followed, before a bizarre apology in the days after the match.
“It was adrenaline and concentration. I will try to behave differently in the future,” he claimed.
‘Behave differently’ he certainly did, but only in the sense that it was his armpits which got the scratch ‘n’ sniff treatment against Slovakia in Germany’s last-16 match.
As the stakes ramp up on the pitch, will things get worse off it?!
The original version of this story which was published by 90min.com Serie A can be viewed here.
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