Italy aim to keep doing what they do
HAVING BEATEN one team whose manager was happy to describe his players as Chelsea-style underdogs and another that Andrea Pirlo merrily dismissed as having performed like the Londoners, Italy must now beat what is undoubtedly the tournament’s Bayern Munich this evening in Warsaw if they are to keep alive their dream of a first European Championship title in 44 years.
Actually it very nearly will be Bayern, with Joachim Loew expected to revert to something very like the side that beat Portugal and the Netherlands in their opening two group games when seven of the club’s stars provided the backbone of the successful team.
Loew, though, refused to give the game away yesterday, insisting the Italians present somewhat different challenges to, say, the Portuguese, and insisting he might, accordingly, decide to handle them in a slightly different way.
The Italians, it seemed, simply regard tonight’s opponents as a serious step up on some of the challenges they have faced so far.
Asked whether, having dominated games against Ireland and England, he and his team-mates could hope to fare as well against the “more technical” Germans or whether they need to revisit their game-plan, Danielle De Rossi acknowledged there was little option but to keep doing what they have to date.
“I don’t think we should change the approach we have taken for the last two years,” he said. “The team has developed this way and we have to take our chances. Of course, we won’t dominate the way we did against England or Ireland, this (Germany) is a team that is stronger but we have to play our own game.”
That, in fact, has been a key theme in the build up, with both coaches insisting their team must seek to exert the greater influence on the pattern of the contest, whilst also aiming to counter the key strengths of their opponents.
For Italy that means containing a side that presses high up the pitch but also likes to launch swift and menacing attacks from deep positions.
For Germany, it seems, it will, first and foremost, be about snuffing out the influence of Andrea Pirlo, whose vision and passing has so far proved too much for lesser teams to handle.
“Italy are very good at coming out from the back and they cause you many problems,” says Loew. “We have to do better than them in midfield and dictate the tempo of the match. It won’t be easy but I think we can do that.”
National Stadium, Warsaw
Kick-off 7.45pm (irish time)
On TV: RTÉ 2 BBC 1
12 Wiese; 22 Zieler; 4 Hoewedes; 17 Mertesacker; 3 Schmelzer; 15 Bender; 19 Goetze; 2 Guendogan; 18 Kroos; 21 Reus; 9 Schuerrle; 11 Klose.
14 De Sanctis; 12 Sirigu; 19 Bonucci; 4 Ogbonnai; 23 Nocerino; 17 Borini; 13 Giaccherini; 18 Montolivo; 20 Giovinco; 9 Balotelli; 10 Cassano.
Stephane Lannoy (France)