While his players were enjoying a rare day off on Tuesday, Joachim Low fronted the Press. Top of the agenda was Germany’s ‘Italian curse’. The boss had seen Italy end Spain’s European reign the previous evening, setting up a mouth-watering Quarter-final. It pits the favourites against a team they have never defeated in a major tournament.
Germany have failed to get the better of the Azzurri in eight attempts at a major tournament. Low oversaw the most recent defeat, at the Semi-final stage four years ago. But he wasn’t having any of it. “We have never beaten them in a tournament but we have no Italy trauma. I do not rate the past too much.”
Speaking on German television a day earlier, the boss said this would be a match between two teams who have so far played the best football. Germany have improved as the tournament has progressed. Italy did well to beat Belgium and Spain when they went in as the outsiders.
The German attacking machine, which started to crank against Slovakia, will come up against the Italian wall. But Italy won’t be in Bordeaux just to defend. A vibrant performance against Spain was rewarded with victory. In doing so, they ended a Spanish hoodoo which stretched back to Euro 2008.
They will aim for more of the same, even if Germany won’t have the same ponderous nature about them as Spain. If there’s any attacking unit which will seriously trouble Italy’s fabled BBC it’s this one. Don’t forget, Germany did put four past the Azzurri in a comprehensive friendly victory in March. They are also yet to concede a goal – but so too is Gigi Buffon. At the other end Italy will need to be clinical.
While the World Champions will attempt to overcome their complex, Antonio Conte has issues of his own. Daniele De Rossi went off injured against Spain and replacement Thiago Motta picked up his second booking of the tournament. He will miss the game and the Roma player is in a race against time to be fit. That gives Conte a headache. He could introduce Stefano Sturaro or re-shuffle his pack. Die Mannschaft have no such concerns, even if Low admits he isn’t yet sure how his team will line up.
It’s a Quarter-final worthy of a Final. After finally getting one over the Spanish, can Italy inflict more pain on Germany? Or will Low and his team finally taste victory over the Azzurri in a tournament setting? An intriguing match awaits.