Germany defeats Italy on penalties at Euro 2016

In a world where few things are certain perhaps it is almost reassuring that you can still count on some things not to change.

Germany, as Germany does, won on penalties to reach the semifinals of Euro 2016 after a heavyweight encounter against an Italian side which played its part in an enthralling encounter.

This was not the most aesthetically pleasing of games but what it lacked in quality it made up for in drama.

At 1-1 after 120 minutes, it was left to penalties and Germany, boasting a quite remarkable record, prevailed 6-5 with Jonas Hector scoring the winner.

It was not a vintage shootout — both teams missed kicks and Germany, which had scored 21 consecutive penalties in shootouts at major tournaments, missed three in a rather bizarre final act.

In the end, it was Manuel Neuer, the Germany goalkeeper, which denied Matteo Darmian and allowed Hector to rifle the ball home to spark wild celebrations.

“I knew I had to take one at some point and I had my heart in my mouth,” Hector told reporters after the game.

“It’s hard to put it into words, but I am overjoyed that it went in. There weren’t many people left.”

As the ball hit the net, those in the blue of Italy fell to the floor, hearts broken by a team which had never beaten it at a major tournament.

Antonio Conte, the Italy coach who will now move on to take charge of Chelsea, held his players close.

For Germany this was sweet revenge and a step closer to holding both the world and European crowns.

“I have never experienced a shootout like this,” Neuer said.

“I think most of the Italians just aimed into the middle. The 1-1 score we conceded during regular time was a bit unlucky.

“But I believe we were the better side and are deservedly through to the semifinals.”

Penalty kings

Few countries can claim to be as successful from the penalty spot as Germany.

It has now won six of its seven shootouts at major tournaments — its only defeat coming 40 years ago against what was then Czechoslovakia.

Ask any England supporter which team was going to win this shootout and they would not have hesitated.

As the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, so too it is certain that Germany will win on penalties when presented with the opportunity.

But this was perhaps even more special for Jogi Low and his team — because it was against Italy.

The curse

The build-up to this contest had been dominated by Germany’s wretched record against Italy at major tournaments.

On the eight occasions the two teams had met previously, Italy have won four and drawn the others.

And when it has really mattered such as the four knockout matches between the two, Italy had won every single time.

Four years ago at the 2012 finals it was Mario Balotelli who scored twice to inflict a 2-1 defeat on Germany and send his team into the final.

That was just the latest success for Italy, whose run against the Germans goes back to the 1970 World Cup.

A 4-3 Italy win after extra-time against a German side beaten in the final four years earlier was one which would ignite a rivalry which runs through to this to this day.

In 1982, Italy was at it again. This time the two sides met in the final in Madrid and once again it was Italy which prevailed with a 3-1 victory.

It would be 24 years before the two renewed rivalries in the knockout stage once again — but this time it was different — it was on German soil.

The 2006 World Cup was supposed to be Germany’s time — the time where it finally ruled world football once again.

Under Jurgen Klinsmann it had made serene progress to the last four and met an Italy side which had appeared far from convincing.

It was an absorbing contest — two teams, thoroughly committed, desperate to succeed and refusing to yield an inch.

But as so often was the case for Germany, it could not find a way past an obdurate Italian defense.

In the end, it was Italy, courtesy of Fabio Grosso’s wonderful strike in the 119th minute, which broke German hearts.

Alessandro del Piero added a second moments later to rub salt in the wounds. Italy would go on to win the tournament and leave Germany weeping at its own party.

“Cold coffee”

For Low, who was assistant coach in 2012, all the talk of the past is what he calls ‘cold coffee’.

Low preferred to look ahead, telling reporters: “I prefer a fresh espresso — we just have to make sure that it tastes good on Saturday.”

Germany, which approached this tie having thrashed Slovakia 3-0 in the previous round and without conceding a goal in any of its four games, made changes to its team and started with a three-man defense to mirror its opponent.

The world champion, whose only victory against Italy since 1995 came in a friendly earlier this year, was dealt an early blow when Sami Khedira was forced to limp out of the game with a groin injury with Bastian Schweinsteiger replacing him.

Schweinsteiger, making his 37th appearance at a major tournament, almost made an instant impact when he headed home at the far post only for his effort to be correctly ruled out for a foul.

A tight, and often uninspiring first half, almost burst into life two minutes before the interval.

Emanuele Giacherrini, who has enjoyed a hugely impressive tournament, escaped the German defense and pulled the ball back for the onrushing Stefano Sturaro, whose fierce effort was deflected inches wide of the far post by Jerome Boateng.

Game on

If the second half was a rather turgid affair then what followed was the perfect antidote.

Germany threw off the shackles and went straight for the Italian defense with Alessandro Florenzi forced into a spectacular block to ensure Thomas Muller’s effort stayed out.

Slowly but surely Germany was taking control and with 25 minutes of the contest remaining it finally made the breakthrough.

Mario Gomez danced his way down the left before picking out Jonas Hector and the full-back’s cross was expertly tucked away by Mesut Ozil.

Buoyed by the goal, Germany stepped up the pressure and was only denied a second by the brilliance of Italy’s goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

Ozil, playing with huge confidence, produced a sumptuous pass over the top of the Italian defense and Gomez ran clear before flicking the ball towards goal only for Buffon to produce a splendid save.

On the spot

It was a save which was to prove crucial as Italy, which had barely managed to construct a meaningful attack in the second period, was gifted a lifeline with 12 minutes remaining.

Boateng, who had produced a near faultless performance, inexplicably handled the ball inside the penalty area and Leonardo Bonucci kept his nerve to fire past Manuel Neuer.

Italy, from having spent much of the half on the back foot, began to move forward and Mattia De Sciglio’s shot flew just wide of the post as the blue shirts swarmed forward.


With neither team able to find a winner inside 90 minutes the contest rather inevitably moved into extra-time.

Julian Draxler, on as substitute for Germany, sent an overhead kick over the crossbar as the world champion created a rare opportunity.

Both sets of players were growing visibly tired as mistakes began to creep into the contest.

Germany, which appeared to find a second wind, pushed on in search of a dramatic winner and Ozil forced Buffon into a sharp save as the clock ticked down.


In the end it was left to penalties to separate the sides.

Lorenzo Insigne, the Italy substitute, showed no signs of nerves as he fired his side ahead before Toni Kroos leveled for Germany.

Simone Zaza then sent his effort over the crossbar after a rather bizarre run-up before Thomas Muller’s shot was saved by Buffon — making him the first German player to fail in a shootout since 1982.

Andrea Barzagli kept his nerve to send Italy 2-1 ahead and Ozil’s miss left Germany in real jeopardy.

But Graziano Pelle, the Southampton forward, dragged his effort wide and Draxler leveled to make it 2-2.

Bonucci, who scored from the spot in normal time, strode forward to see if he could repeat his successful effort.

The Italian defender, who had produced a fine performance, struck his effort low and hard but Neuer dived low to his right to turn the ball away.

It was left to Scheweinsteiger, wearing the captain’s armband, to send Germany into the semifinal.

The midfielder stepped up but ballooned his effort over the crossbar to the disbelief of his teammates.

Giaccherini netted his effort to make it 3-2 before Mats Hummels leveled with a cool spot kick of his own.

Marco Parolo, the midfielder, made it 4-3 and leave 21-year-old Kimmich needing to score to save his team and he obliged with a fine effort.

De Sciglio smashed his effort in off the crossbar to make it 5-4 with Boateng drawing his side level after eight penalties each.

But it was the unfortunate Darmian who would be cast as villain as his effort was saved by Neuer and Hector fired home to secure victory.

Italy will not need to be told — some things just never change.

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