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Saturday’s quarterfinalists, Germany may have been tagged one of the favorites to win the Euros, while their opponent, Italy weren’t even tipped by many to emerge from their group, but it is worth knowing that they are yet to lose to the Joachim Low side in 8 competitive fixtures. Italy have had the toughest run to the round of 8 in France, defeating Belgium, Sweden and Spain thus far. While Germany on the other hand have also been classically outstanding to an extent, but beating Ukraine, Northern Ireland and Slovakia aren’t the toughest of tests yet. Defeating Italy will see them emerge as clear favourites to win the tournament, but an Italy victory won’t convince critics they are worthy of being tagged favorites still. Nobody gave them a chance from the get-go, just like the case was a decade ago when they won the Germany-hosted World Cup against all odds, defeating the host in the semis en-route road to deserved glory. History might just repeat itself again. Will it?

From Antonio Conte’s final squad selection, to their official press presentation, faults were found here and there. But they have made a strong statement of intent so far. And that, coupled with a great record against Germany might eventually work in their favour. On paper, they still aren’t favorites to win the game. The Germans have been clinical so far and will be more inspired given the history between both of them. The most recent heartbreak for Germany came at the last Euros, and that semifinals exit will serve as great motivation when they lineup against Conte’s men tonight. There is no much gulf in individual quality per say between both sides, and Germany too have been able to click as a team, but the Italians stick to the game plan and that has proven to be a winning strategy. A resolute rearguard, a compact midfield and a chance-taking forward, it has worked effectively well and Low’s side are under the most pressure to at least break the jinx. They are expected to win, take their revenge, prove they are word beaters. Not a lot have any expectations Italy must meet.

It’s a battle of champions, no doubt, and such encounter would have been better savoured for the finals, but it even makes either of them credible champions if they eventually emerge winners. What Italy lack in big names and big club players, they make up for in their enviable team play and discipline. Sticking to a 3-5-2 plan has been far more than effective, with Wales even having to adapt it, and seeing it yield far more than expected results against Belgium. It is a system the Germans will find hard to break, and only few moments of brilliance and converted chances could determine who eventually comes out top. It’s a game that could end up in a goalless draw at the end of 120 minutes, end up with a lone goal difference or even see a rout. It is that unpredictable. Both sides will play for pride and glory, and a winner will be saddled with the responsibility of lifting the trophy come July 10. The expectations will be very high for the eventual conqueror. Germany or Italy? Who will it be?

Paul Koroma

I learned all about life with a ball at my feet. Soccer allows me to push the limitation of creativity and express myself without saying a word. Soccer is my addiction. I train. I play, and I repeat every single day.

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