The fairytale run of the Azzurri is over! After a pulsating encounter in Bordeaux that ended 1-1 in normal time, Italy were eventually sent home from France, losing 6-5 on penalties to a German team that matched them tactically.
How it went down
Germany were made to work hard for their win and saw their hopes soar when Mesut Özil bundled in Hector’s low cross. The Italians who usually set out in a 3-5-2 formation approached the game in usual fashion, with all zest and vigor. However, it was the Germans who were the better side for much of the game, calmly controlling from the middle where Italy are usually so strong.
This was made possible because Germany’s coach Joachim Löw was willing to tweak his trademark 4-2-3-1 formation to accommodate Antonio Conte’s 3-5-2 head cracking setup.
He did this by deploying a 3-4-2-1 formation in which Joshua Kimmich and Hector where to play as wing backs and join in the midfield to assist the likes of Özil and Khedira (taken off for Schweinsteiger). It worked! The forays of Alessandro Florenzi and Mattia De Sciglio was restricted to the bare minimum and Germany had control of the midfield.
Conte’s puzzle had been solved by Löw, the game was set to be more tactical than physical, and it was so. Germany’s series of attacks nearly paid off when Mats Hummels’ long ball into the Italian box was was headed in by Bastian Schweinsteiger, but the goal was correctly disallowed for a foul on De Sciglio.
Germany resumed the second half with greater intensity and grabbed a goal as reward 20 minutes later when Ozil converted after some smooth play from Gomez and Hector down the left.
The Italians didn’t back down after that goal and were rewarded 13 minutes later when Jerome Boateng committed a defensive howler by raising his hands too high while marking Chiellini in the box. A deep cross hit his right arm and the referee immediately pointed to the spot.
Leonardo Bonucci made no mistakes from the spot kick as he struck it low and hard down the right. The scoreline stayed that way until the referee blew the final whistle.
Extra time came and players from both teams approached it cautiously in order to avoid being caught out defensively. Chances however fell to both side. Lorenzo Insigne had Italy’s best chance in extra time but his shot was coolly collected by Neuer. Özil blasted a shot straight at Buffon as the match whined down to the inevitable penalties.
Italy started off with Insigne shooting them into the lead. Toni Kroos equalized for Germany.
Interestingly it was only Barzagli and Draxler who would convert their spot kicks with Thomas Müller (Germany), Simone Zaza (Italy), Graziano Pelle (Italy) and Leonardo Bonucci (Italy) all failing to score as the first round ended 2-2. Bastian Schweinsteiger also fluffed a chance of winning it for Germany by failing to convert.
Then it went to sudden death with Mats Hummels (Germany), Emanuele Giaccherini (Italy), Joshua Kimmich (Germany), Marco Parolo (Italy), Jerome Boateng (Germany) and Mattia De Sciglio (Italy) all converting. Manchester united’s Matteo Darmian then missed his poorly taken spot kick leaving Jonas Hector the chance to win it for Germany. He duly obliged.
Italy will be gutted to be knocked out but the Germans will sleep in delight as they chase another piece of silverware after lifting the 2014 world Cup in Brazil.