Toni Kroos hopes midfield colleague Sami Khedira can prove effective as Germany’s man on the inside ahead of Saturday’s eagerly anticipated Euro 2016 quarter-final against Italy.
The world champions’ serene progress to the latter stages, without conceding a goal in four outings, has all the hallmarks of a side tipped by many to go all the way in France.
Italy’s exploits under Antonio Conte, with a largely unheralded squad turning in arguably the two most complete team performances of the tournament by seeing off Belgium and Spain 2-0, has by contrast caught many by surprise.
Juventus’ imperious defensive unit of centre-backs Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini in front of their veteran club-mate Gianluigi Buffon has proved to be Italy’s immovable bedrock.
Khedira also plies his trade with the Serie A champions and Kroos expects him to have compared notes with Germany coach Joachim Low before the Bordeaux encounter.
“I think he will have talked to the coach a few times because just the defence alone has got a few Juventus players in it,” Kroos told a news conference, with a degree of understatement.
“So that is a thing we will consider while preparing, even though many of us have played against Italians. Bayern played them in the Champions League, [Kroos’ club] Real Madrid played against Juventus one year ago.
“So there is nothing new to discover. The important thing is how we will react to them.”
Bayern might have prevailed over Juventus in the Champions League this year, but at international level the Azzurri boast a formidable record versus Germany.
A Mario Balotelli brace saw them past Low’s much-fancied side in the semi-finals at Euro 2012 – Italy’s fourth win from as many attempts when the teams have met in the knockout stages at major tournaments.
Nevertheless, Kroos was insistent there should be no fear in the Germany camp – at least not on his part.
“Why should I have a trauma about Italy? How often was I playing back then?” he asked.
“Winning would be really important of course in order to stay in the tournament. To me its not that important that Italy didn’t lose [to Germany] in such a tournament so far.
“You can’t change that anyway. To us just the result on Saturday will matter. Italy will be the biggest challenge so far and they will be the strongest opponent. I can’t wait for such games.”
Jerome Boateng declaring himself fit despite a calf complaint means Low has a full squad to choose from, while there are issues in defensive midfield for Italy, with Daniele De Rossi aiming to overcome a blow to the hip and deputy Thiago Motta suspended.
“It’s going to be hard and we’re going to have to suffer, but if we prepare it well from the first seconds, like against Spain, we can give it a go,” said Italy wing-back Mattia De Sciglio.
“If we play as a team with the sacrifice and determination we’ve shown, we can also cause Germany harm.”
Key Opta Facts:
– Germany have won 14 of their last 17 games at major tournaments, drawing two and losing one – the loss to Italy in the Euro 2012 semi-finals.
– Germany are the only team yet to concede a goal at Euro 2016. The only previous time they kept clean sheets in their first four games at a major tournament was in the 1978 World Cup.
– Italy have kept 19 clean sheets in 37 European Championship matches, more than any other team in the history of the tournament and just ahead of Germany (18 from in 47).
– Italy have picked up more cards than any other team at Euro 2016 – 13 bookings in four games.
– Mario Gomez has scored the joint most goals for Germany at the European Championship with five, alongside Jurgen Klinsmann.
– Graziano Pelle’s two goals at Euro 2016 have come in stoppage time.
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