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Euro 2016: Germany 1-1 Italy (6-5 pens)

A Hector penalty in sudden death gave his side a shootout win and saw Germany into the semi-finals of the 2016 European Championship, at the expense of Italy at the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux, setting up a tasty encounter against either hosts France or England-demolishing Iceland. For a side that had beat Germany on 8 separate occasions at major tournaments, the Azzurri didn’t pile on too much pressure and it seemed like Germany were the better side, despite the fact that it took 65 minutes to break the deadlock.

Former England international Martin Keown said that it was a tactical stalemate and he was right as the opening 20 minutes of the game had little action with the only events of much notice being Sami Khedira dropping to the floor before calling time on his quarter-final involvement due to a muscle problem in his thigh, with veteran midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger replacing him, equalling Miroslav Klose’s record of featuring in 37 matches at World Cup or Euro finals and Italian forward Éder sliding to attempt to keep the ball in play but ultimately not being able to and almost sliding into German coach Joachim Low. Some clever play from Germany meant Schweinsteiger managed to put the ball in the back of the net, however the linesman judged the Manchester United maestro to have been offside, disallowing the goal.

A mistake from Kimmich gave the Italians a chance on the half-hour mark but the cross played in was well cleared by Jerome Boateng, and throughout the first half, it seemed the Azzurri were on the back foot, as the German counter-attacks transformed the extremely solid three at the back of Chiellini, Barzagli and Bonucci into more of something that looked like a back five. A lovely cross in from Kimmich allowed Mario Gomez to nod the ball towards veteran keeper Gianluigi Buffon in the Italian net, but the effort was a way off target, but not before some clever movement from Gomez allowed himself to get in position, whilst 2 minutes later, an intriguing build-up fell to Thomas Muller to try and score on his 74th German appearance, but a lacklustre effort fell into the hands of Buffon. Soon after, a beautiful long ball to Giaccherini followed by German confusion gave Sturaro an 18-yard attempt but a deflection from Boateng gave the Italians a corner, which came to no avail.

Six minutes into the second half and Kimmich once again with an above average cross in left Andrea Barzagli with no option but to perform a diving header to put it behind for a corner – Mario Gomez ready and waiting to shoot. Then, Muller produced some wonderful manoeuvres to set himself up in a shooting position from all of 20 yards, but Barzagli once again, performed acrobatics, deflecting the ball out and behind, this time with the underside of his right boot. The first booking of the game came in the 55th minute when Stefano Sturaro knocked one of his opponents over, which wasn’t worthy of a yellow, bu it was his reaction at the referee, throwing his arms up in the air. De Sciglio, seconds later, brought another German down, but due to already being booked from a previous game, this yellow card (would have) results(ed) in him missing the next game (had Italy made it). Marco Parolo made it 3 bookings for 3 separate Italian players in 3 minutes, for a wild kick into the back of Muller’s number 13 shirt.

Then a long goal kick from Neuer fell to Hector, who ran down the left wing before knocking the ball across into the box, which took a deflection off Bonucci before Mesut Ozil arrived to strike the ball with his left into the bottom left corner to put the world champions ahead in the 65th minute – the first goal Italy have conceded at these Euros, one more, funnily enough, than the number of goals Germany had conceded; the last time the Germans had done so competitively was against Brazil in that 7-1 victory in the World Cup semi-final in 2014. Ozil then almost turned provider as his amazing chip through ball found Mario Gomez, who almost beat the offside trap, managing to control the ball, flicking it up and over Buffon, but the Juventus keeper tipped it over before Gomez looked over to see the linesman had raised his flag.

Gomez’s night was over soon after as he came off for fresh legs in Julian Draxler, an impressive attacking talent, who has certainly impressed in his native Bundesliga in the previous couple of seasons at Wolfsburg. The Italians had been quiet through that period of 20 minutes, until Graziano Pelle found space in the box and De Sciglio’s cross found the Southampton striker but his effort was a little too high to be heading anywhere near the German goal. Jerome Boateng’s arms, a few minutes later, were way too high, resulting in an Italian penalty. Bonucci stepped up, for the first time ever in-game, in the 77rh minute, before faking a shot, then slotting it into the bottom-right; Neuer guessing correctly, but the Italian defender’s strike was too powerful; Italian celebrations began and rightly so.

The match hotted up and Italy created another attack, once again Pelle shooting off target, but a deflection resulted in a corner. After a few quiet minutes, De Sciglio who had controlled the far-side, cut inside and had an attempt from at least 20 yards; he was only a few inches away from sealing the game.

The first half of extra time produced little worth talking about; Boateng having the best attempt from a corner swung out away from the 18-yard box.  The second half started with an audacious effort from Schweinsteiger i.e. an overhead kick from 10 yards. High, wide and not so handsome, however, as the saying goes. A moment of madness then occurred as Neuer kicked the ball out and hit the heel of Boateng and almost gave away an easy goal as it rebounded before the referee noticed the offside flag and gave a free kick in Germany’s favour. With the score level, they went to penalties.

Italy took first, with Insigne calmly slotting the ball into the right, going the opposite to Neuer. Toni Kroos then went where Buffon just couldn’t reach it in the top left. Simone Zaza’s first touch came after a run-up that took an age, and then went out the stadium. Thgomas Muller’s was saved by Buffon, before Barzagli’s went straight down the middle into the net. Mesut Ozil’s hit the right-hand post, while Graziano Pelle’s was chipped wide. Julian Draxler smashed the ball into the bottom-right. After scoring a penalty earlier, Bonucci’s was saved by Neuer before Bastian Schweinsteiger stook it straight over the bar. Italy’s Giaccherini also slotted it down the middle, whilst Mats Hummels made it 3-3 after 6 each. Parolo repeated Giaccherini, then Kimmich equalised into the bottom-left. De Scligio’s hit the crossbar before going in, whilst Boateng continued the shootout. Darmian went low, and so did Neuer, resulting in a save, and ultimately leaving it to Hector, who put it underneath Buffon, confirming Germany’s place in the semis. The first time they have beat Italy in a major competition for over 50 years.

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