Germany will play either France or Iceland in the last four of Euro 2016 after beating Italy on penalties on Saturday night, in a dramatic contest at the quarter final stage.
The match ended 1-1 after 120 minutes, and Jonas Hector stepped up to take the decisive penalty in the shootout to send the world champions through. Mesut Ozil and Leonardo Bonucci had scored in the 90 minutes to force extra time initially.
The tactical battle between Antonio Conte and opposite number Joachim Low took precedence in a first half starved of chances.
Low switched to a back three to mirror the Italians’ set up prior to the match, and as you’d expect, space in central areas was minimal.
Interesting battle of chess, yes, but the lack of goalmouth action had social media users voicing their displeasure – even our man on Twitter this evening wasn’t too impressed with what he was seeing…
Bastian Schweinsteiger replaced the injured Sami Khedira early on, and it was the Manchester United man who became embroiled in the first serious snippet of goalmouth action. He turned a header past Gigi Buffon from a cross to the back post, but saw his goal ruled out for a push on an opposition defender.
The game did burst into life in the final moments of the first half though, as Emanuele Giaccherini broke the German offside trap and was played in behind, with his cross in eventually finding Stefano Sturaro – whose shot took a deflection and was diverted agonisingly wide of the post in the process.
Momentum swung in the world champions’ direction after the break. Low’s side undoubtedly stepped up the pressure and would have been in front but for a miraculous goal line clearance from Alessandro Florenzi from Thomas Muller’s shot.
Said pressure did tell shortly after, as Jonas Hector broke down the left hand side of the box and the ball found its way to Ozil, who smashed the ball home at the near post.
Germany sensed blood, and they were set to go for the jugular. They nearly doubled their lead moments after the opener, but Buffon pulled off a miraculous save to deny a deft flick at goal from Mario Gomez.
Though just as it looked like the Azzurri were on the ropes, they charged down the other end and earned a cast-iron penalty kick.
Blame lies with Jerome Boateng, who unbelievably, well, star-jumped in the box as he attempted to defend a cross, but having been beaten to the ball, it was to strike his outstretched arm and the referee had no hesitation.
Bonucci dispatched with authority, and neither side could make a breakthrough in the final ten minutes. An extra half an hour was set.
Fatigue began to set in during the extra time period, but we’d have to wait until early in the second half for a chance of note.
Substitute Julian Draxler broke through the middle of the pitch and was tasked with playing Muller in down the right channel, but the pass was poor, and the unmarked Bayern Munich man was forced too wide to make the most of the opportunity.
Penalties loomed. Both sides, appearing reluctant to open up too much for risk of being caught out at the other end, played out the remaining time seemingly in expectation spot-kicks would follow. And that’s exactly how it turned out.
Lorenzo Insigne and Toni Kroos scored their first penalties, before substitute Simone Zaza – and his ridiculous run up – were first to miss. Muller, who hasn’t scored in the competition yet, couldn’t take advantage though, as Buffon denied him down to his left side.
Mesut Ozil was next to hit the post, before Graziano Pelle and Bonucci each missed and Schweinsteiger had the chance to win it. He couldn’t take his chance.
Man Utd teammate Matteo Darmian buckled under the pressure soon after though, and Jonas Hector stepped up to beat Buffon and send Italy out of the competition. Germany win on penalties, again.
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