Germany v Italy, 19:45
With Spain waiting in the final, as everyone thought they would be and having taken penalties to defeat Portugal, we’ll now get to see the defending champions defend their crown, and it’s down to Italy and Germany to decide who gets the honour of challenging them. Pre-tournament, you’d undoubtedly have picked the Germans to win through and meet the Spanish, but alongside the class and technique Italy displayed in beating England there was a good deal of resolve and determination, so Germany can take nothing for granted.
The German system requires high energy and commitment, and throughout the tournament the biggest threat to their progress has appeared to be fatigue. Italy will certainly make the Germans run, but if Schweinsteiger can get on the ball early and find the frontmen, in particular Mesut Ozil, then Italy will be in trouble. It is not unfair to say the Germany have not always produced the greatest flair players, specialising in excellent technique and tactical acumen, but the Turkish-German attacker has really grown as a player at Real Madrid, and can count himself amongst the best in the world.
Italian playmaker Adrea Pirlo was pictured training with an oxygen mask after 120 gruelling minutes against England, although he had that game by the scruff of the neck for long periods. The extra rest Germany have enjoyed will be of some benefit, but the Italy squad contains enough old pros that they won’t be overawed at the challenge ahead, and will know how to dig deep when the time comes. Cesere Prandelli is still waiting for Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano to fire, and there could be no better time for his talented strikers to hit their straps than the semi-final of the European Championships.
Bastian Schweinsteiger has been declared fit despite having treatment on an ankle injury, and Germany manager Joachim Loew could recall Mario Gomez, Lukas Podolski and Thomas Mueller after making changes against the Greeks. Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini, Daniele De Rossi and Ignazio Abate are all injury doubts for coach Cesare Prandelli, and if they don’t recover it could force him to adopt a three-man backline. The dreaded 0-0 is on at 15/2 with William Hill, and that’s been a good bet for the last few games, but if you like a goal Coral have 11/2 on Mario Gomez scoring first.