June 28, 2012
Germany stunned by semifinal loss
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
WARSAW - Most of the German players tried to walk quickly past the mix zone, the area in the stadium where the media hangs out in the hopes of elliciting a few verbal nuggets after the game.
Some talked briefly, others walked by. Most, though, looked stunned.
They probably had their fingers crossed that if they walked by quickly, they wouldn't be stopped to explain their shocking 2-1 loss to Italy in Thursday's Euro 2012 semifinal. Walk quickly, go home, forget quickly.
It isn't going to be that easy.
Like it or not, this is one loss that is going to take some explaining. It is yet another failure in a big game to a major opponent.
German has its special demon in Italy.
The semifinal was the eighth time these teams met in a major competition. It was Italy's fourth win. The other four games were tied. It's a curse that has been part of the German soccer psyche for some time.
"It means nothing," German coach Joachim Loew said. "These are different players. This is a different team. They play a different style. The past is the past."
Sure, it is a different team, different players, different style. But the result is the same.
All those losses hurt but this one must sting a great deal more. This wasn't supposed to happen. Germany was not supposed to lose to Italy.
The German team was in its prime and playing with confidence.
The Germans were confident, perhaps too much so. Arrogance brings good teams to their knees.
They began the game well against Italy but were quickly put back on their heels when the Italians were neither intimidated nor impressed with the German attack.
Instead of pushing back, the Germans stopped working and Italy took over.
It was a wonderfully entertaining game, a highly anticipated game that lived up to expectations, something which so often fails to materialize.
Andrea Pirlo was at his balletic best. He was supposed to be shut down by a fearsomely tough German midfield. Instead, he danced through them.
Where was Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira? Only Khedira appeared truly invested in controlling Pirlo. Schweinsteiger looked like a man stuck in a hole, not sure whether to go forward or back.
Even more shocking than the disappearance of the German midfield was the decimation of the German defence. Italian forward Mario Balotelli and his mates made the German defence look less than ordinary.
It was an extraordinary night for Balotelli. His two goals were highlight-reel worthy and exposed the German defence.
The soccer world saw a rare sight on this night -- a smiling Balotelli.
Even Loew might face some queries, starting with why.he used Toni Kroos when he had many other options.
While Germany goes home to uncomfortable questions about the repeated failures to jump that final hurdle, Italy is finding plenty of answers about how it needs to play.
Like the chef who finds a rewarding taste with a mix of spices, the Italians have found a rewarding mix of styles of play.
Coach Cesare Prandelli proved that Italy no longer needs to hide behind a defensive wall that stifles creativity. He proved that a team can attack while not giving up a great deal defensively.
It has provided Italian fans with a wonderful tournament that, regardless how it ends, will lead to celebrations and compliments.
It is not quite the reception that awaits the Germans when they get home.