Germany do it tough, but they find a way

Germany have progressed to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 after a shootout which saw four penalties missed and another three saved before Jonas Hector was able to slot home the winning penalty. His effort squeezed past Gianluigi Buffon, who guessed correctly but could not make the save. The contest was much anticipated, and when Germany attempted to match Italy by playing a three-man defence it was clear that it was going to be a very even game. The first half was intriguing, with the two sides feeling each other out. Germany were in control of possession, but the Italian defence were holding firm. The Germans were wary of Italy’s danger on the break, and the Italians were trapped inside their own half.

The game started to open up as the first half drew to a close, and Thomas Muller had a great chance when he received the ball in a brilliant scoring position. Toni Kroos passed wide to Joshua Kimmich, whose cross towards the middle found Muller in a great position. It was a brilliant chance, but the shot was weak and Buffon made an easy save. The Italians had a great opportunity moments later when Emanuele Giaccherini was played through by Leonardo Bonucci, but his cross was deflected away from Alessandro Florenzi by Jerome Boateng. Stefano Sturaro had a chance with a follow-up shot, but Boateng made another deflection to put the ball out for a corner. The second half eased back into the same slow rhythm of the first half, but Germany still had control and would have scored had it not been for some spectacular defensive work from Florenzi. Muller’s shot was past Buffon, but Florenzi deflected it away in mid-air with an outstretched leg. It was an incredible piece of defending, and it kept the scores even.

Mesut Ozil put Germany in the lead shortly after thanks to some good lead-up play from Mario Gomez and Hector. Gomez ran down the left wing before playing the ball through for Hector, who had pushed up the field well. The cross took a deflection from Bonucci to land at the feet of Ozil, who did not have much to do to beat Buffon. Italy were down, and the game looked very different. Germany played in the same way they had before, and they dominated possession, but now Germany’s slow build-up play looked like a bad thing for the Italians. They had to score, but they couldn’t get the ball. Gomez was brilliantly denied by Buffon after a perfect ball from Ozil played him through over the top. The Italian keeper pushed it over with his fingertips, and Italy survived. It still didn’t look as if they were good enough to score, however, and Germany remained in control. Then came the equaliser. The penalty came from nowhere, a rare mistake from Boateng with serious consequences. Florenzi put a cross into the box for Giorgio Chiellini, who had Boateng bearing down on him. Boateng’s arms were inexplicably raised, and Chiellini’s header did not miss them. The penalty was awarded, and Bonucci stepped up to take it. He stopped halfway through his run-up to leave Manuel Neuer flat-footed before drilling it past him into the bottom corner. Neuer guessed correctly, but it didn’t matter as the ball was too well struck.

Extra time was inevitable, and it seemed unlikely that either side would break the deadlock. Julian Draxler came close when his bicycle kick flew just over the bar, but that was the closest either side would get. Then came penalties. Lorenzo Insigne converted, as did Kroos. Then Simone Zaza stepped up. The Juventus striker was subbed on for the express purpose of taking a penalty, and he looked confident as he pranced in. He pranced in slowly, giving Neuer plenty of time to think, and he drilled his penalty into the stands. It was a horrendous effort, and it put Italy in a bad position. Then Buffon saved Muller, and it didn’t matter anymore. Italy took the lead when Ozil hit the post, but they were unable to capitalise as an exhausted Graziano Pelle rolled a weak effort wide of the post. Then Neuer made a brilliant save to deny Bonucci, who chose to kick the other way and found the German keeper ready to stop it. Bastian Schweinsteiger just needed to put it into the back of the net to end it, but his penalty was spooned over the bar and the shootout dragged on. Suddenly both teams had found their scoring boots, and the game rolled on until Neuer saved Matteo Darmian. The penalty was low to the right, and Neuer saved it brilliantly to give Germany the ascendency. Hector hit his penalty home, and Germany were through.

Bordeaux – Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux
Germany 1 (Ozil 65)
Italy 1 (Bonucci 78 pen) (a.e.t, Germany won 6-5 on penalties)
Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hun)

Germany (4-4-2): Neuer – Howedes, Boateng, Hummels, Hector; Kimmich, Khedira (Schweinsteiger 16), Kroos, Ozil; Muller, Gomez (Draxler 71).
Italy (3-5-2): Buffon – Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini (Zaza 120+1); Florenzi (Darmian 86), Sturaro, Parolo, Giaccherini, de Sciglio; Pelle, Eder (Insigne 108).

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