|Italy's coach Cesare Prandelli reacts during their Euro 2012 quarterfinal soccer match against England at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, June 24, 2012. (REUTERS)
WARSAW - Germany has had pretty much everything it wanted during this Euro 2012.
They didn’t get one thing, though, the team they would have preferred to play in the semifinals.
“I would prefer England,” said German captain Philipp Lahm. “England are much better than in 2010 and so are Italy. All teams that make the semifinals are title contenders. We know both teams, especially from 2006 and 2010. Both teams are strong opponents, but for sure they are not happy to play against us.”
Germany beat England handily 4-1 at the last World Cup. But now they have to take on a team that has been very successful against them. Italy and Germany went to extra time in the 2006 World Cup semifinal with Italy scoring twice in the last two minutes to advance.
Italy defeated England 4-2 on penalty kicks in a Euro quarterfinal Sunday. After watching England play, it was easy to see why Germany would have preferred them to Italy. Not that Germany has a lot to worry about. It will be a heavy favourite when the two meet in Thursday's semifinal.
They don’t have to worry unless they look at the history of games played. In 30 tries, Italy has won 14, lost nine and tied seven times against Germany.
Germany has never beaten Italy at a World Cup or European Championship. Italy has played Germany seven times in those events and has won three and drawn four -- one of those wins was in a World Cup final.
Franz Beckenbauer, a former German international, told a German magazine that Germany has nothing to fear.
“I can hardly see any weak links in the German team," Beckenbauer said. "When you've won all your competitive games since the semifinal at the 2010 World Cup, you don't have to fear any opponent.
“Germany were overwhelming against the Greeks, and could have been 4-0 up at halftime. Their performance was a clear signal towards their rivals for the European title.
“ . . . Although Italy have been our nemesis at big tournaments and defeated us at the 2006 World Cup, things will be different this time around. It doesn't really matter who our next opponent (is).”
The Germans have a right to be confident with the way they have played but it won’t help if they are overconfident. Few people expected Italy to get this far but they have some players who are in good form and they have more depth than they did during what has been a difficult previous two years.
Things are somewhat different for the Italians. The team that has moved into these semifinals is different than the team Germany has played in the past. This team doesn’t mind attacking unlike other Italian teams that sat back defensively and waited for a break. The suggestion is the only way to beat this German team is to attack them rather than wait for them to come to you.
Italy will have two fewer days rest than Germany when the two play on Thursday. Italian coach Cesar Prandelli said that Germany is “clearly” the favourite.
It’s a big banner pair of semifinals with Italy playing Germany and Portugal playing Spain. Between Italy, Spain and Germany there are eight World Cups and six European championships.