Verdict: Italy to qualify
Best Odds: 3/2
Without a doubt the most interesting clash in the Euro 2016 quarter-finals will see World Cup holders Germany take on Euro 2012 finalists Italy. Both sides recorded convincing wins in the previous stage, but the Azzurri probably head into the match in better spirits having impressed to beat Spain at Saint Denis.
Germany had been far from impressive in the Euro 2016 qualifiers and warm-up games for the tournament finals, which caused many to start doubting their chances of going all the way in France. In all fairness, Joachim Low’s side played below par in the group stage, but, as that usually happens, Die Mannschaft hit top form in the best possible time. Germany turned on the style against very good Slovakia side, recording a 3-0 triumph to get revenge for the friendly defeat a month ago and at the same time secured their place in the quarter-finals. The World Cup holders find themselves in the difficult part of the draw as they will have to beat Italy and probably hosts France on the way to the final, and the Azzurri are likely to prove a tough nut to crack. It was Italy that eliminated Germany at the Euro 2012 finals, and with Die Mannschaft having never beaten the Azzurri in a competitive match, they will have some additional pressure ahead of Saturday’s clash. Joachim Low’s charges have yet to concede a goal in France, but with their attack only looking good against Slovakia, they could face problems against hard-working Italy side.
Joachim Low has no fresh injury worries and he is almost certain to field the same side that enjoyed a resounding triumph over Slovakia.
We have to admit we didn’t think this Italy side were good enough to qualify for the knockout stages, let alone mount a serious title challenge, but we clearly disregarded the impact of coach Antonio Conte. Even the boss himself agrees that the quality of players at his disposal is far inferior to those of his predecessors, but the former Juventus tactician has done brilliantly to get the absolute maximum out of the current crop of players. While losing to Republic of Ireland in a match of little significance, the Azzurri impressed to beat Belgium, Sweden and Spain, three top sides with world-class strikers, keeping a clean sheet in each of those games. The Juventus back line led by Gianluigi Buffon and Leonardo Bonucci has been flawless in the four games so far, and if they can keep the rich vein of form, Germany attackers will have their work cut out for themselves. After losing quite a couple of important midfielders in the build up to the tournament (Verratti, Marchisio) and another one after the start (Candreva), Conte will now have to make do without Daniele De Rossi and Thiago Motta as well, but that does not mean his side will be severely weakened against Germany. As the previous games have shown, team spirit and defensive organisation are the strongest points of this Italy side, so we are not prepared to bet against the Azzurri this time out.
Thiago Motta misses out through suspension, whereas Antonio Candreva and Daniele De Rossi are unavailable due to injury.
The latest reports suggest Marco Parolo will assume the role of deep-lying playmaker, while Stefano Sturaro will be drafted into the side.
Key Factors to Consider
- Germany have never beaten Italy in a competitive fixture
- Italy recorded a 2-1 win in the Euro 2012 semi-final
- Germany have yet to concede at Euro 2016
- Italy beat Belgium, Sweden and Spain without conceding
- The Azzurri are without five first team midfielders
Germany are without a doubt superior to Italy with regards to individual quality, but they are not playing their best football and we believe that Antonio Conte will outsmart Joachim Low, after doing the same with Vicente Del Bosque. Hence, we are backing the Azzurri for second successive semi-final at the European Championships.
Verdict: Italy to qualify
Best Odds: 3/2