Germany eventually see off Italy after dramatic penalty shootout

After the game finished 1-1 in 120 minutes, the Germans emerged victorious on spot kicks

Germany players celebrate winning the penalty shootout that saw them past Italy and into the semi-finals of Euro 2016. Photo: Reuters

Germany players celebrate winning the penalty shootout that saw them past Italy and into the semi-finals of Euro 2016. Photo: Reuters

 

Germany 1 Italy 1 (Germany won 6-5 on penalties)

World Champions Germany march on to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 after defeating Italy last night in a cruelly dramatic penalty shoot-out at the end of their quarter final clash in Bordeaux. After a tense, dramatic and above all evenly balanced game, it took no less than 18 penalties to decide this tie, with the final winning penalty being scored by German defender, Jonas Hector.

It would be gratifying to suggest that the best team on the night won but, in reality, this was a game which had hung on a knife edge from start to finish. If any sort of sporting justice was done in the lottery of the shoot-out, it came from the fact that Italy’s equaliser for a 1-1 full time scoreline had come through a questionable penalty decision.

Germany, who have long been the favourites for many observers, now march on to the semi finals. Even they will be forced to admit though that for long periods yesterday evening, that Italian tournament hoodoo over them was threatening to strike again. In the end, for Antonio Conte’s entreprising Italy, it was not to be. They return to Italy beaten but not disgraced at the end of an epic quarter final tie which would have surely have made a fitting final.

From the moment the official team sheet arrived, an intriguing question asked itself. Joachim Low had dropped the exciting Wolfsburg attacker, Julian Draxler, replacing him with Schalke 04 defender, Benni Hoewedes. It looked both like a tactical response to Italy’s five man midfield and also a move which implied plenty of respect for his opponents. A grisly reminder of more important non-football matters came from the fact that the Italian players all wore a black armband, in mourning for the nine Italians killed in yesterday’s ISIS attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

In contrast, Antonio Conte had sprung no surprises whatsoever with his by now classic 3-5-2 line up in which Stefano Sturaro and Alessandro Florenzi stepped in for the injured Daniele De Rossi and Antonio Candreva respectively. This looked the choices of a man sure of what he and his team had to do.

So, to a large extent it proved to be. After an initial three minutes of imperious looking German possession, the first half settled into a tactical stalemate. With both sides well covered on both the flanks and the back. It was indicative of a tight first half that Germany’s first real piece of flowing, attacking football came in the 40th minute when Mario Gomez got on the end of a cross from full back Joshua Kimmich.

Germany had earlier got the ball in the net when substitute Bastian Schweinsteiger headed home in the 27th minute. However, in so doing, he had clearly fouled defender Mattia De Sciglio. The Manchester United man had come after only 16 minutes when German midfielder Sami Khedira had appeared to pull a muscle following a typically brusque tackle from defender Giorgio Chiellini.

Even if both sides had half chances, through Tomas Muller at one end and Stefano Sturaro at the other, it remained an evenly poised, cerebral game in which neither goalkeeper was particularly busy. At halftime, this was a game that had a look of 0-0 all over it.

The ice was finally broken in this close-run contest in the 65th minute when striker Mario Gomez went on a run down the left wing, connected brilliantly with left back Hector whose rapid fire cross was knocked away with superb aplomb from Mesut Ozil.

If Germany thought that they had done the business at that point, then they had to think again.

With 25 minutes still to play, Italy refused to panic, even in the face of an ebullient German side which went perilously close to wrapping up the business just three minutes later. That chance fell to Mario Gomez who outflanked the attempted Italian offside trap to send himself clean through only to see Italian captain Gigi Buffon pull off a spectacular save.

Just when it appeared that time was about to run out for the Italians, the sporting gods, or perhaps more accurately Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai, intervened to put Italy back into the contest. The referee awarded Italy an at least questionable penalty after Bayern defender Jerome Boateng appeared to inadvertently handle the ball as he went up to head away a cross in a crowded area.

It was one of those penalties that not every referee would give, one that had a soft look about it. Yet, Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci did not quibble, stepping up to strike an imperious spot kick which guarranteed that this quarter final would almost certainly go into extra-time.

Which, inevitably, it did. Even if the Germans arguably had the better of the two extra time periods, neither they nor the Italians came close to creating any meaningful chances as two tired, but still disciplined sides went through the motions.

That meant that the game had to be decided in the cruellest of fashions. And, as is so often the case with penalty shootouts, the Germans emerged victorious thanks to Hector’s effort which slipped under Buffon after Matteo Darmian had missed for Italy.

Germany: Neuer; Kimmikch, Boateng, Hummels, Hector; Khedira, Kroos; Ozil, Muller, Draxler; Gomez. Coach: Loew.

Italy: Buffon; Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Florenzi, Parolo, Sturaro, Giaccherini, De Sciglio; Eder, Pellè. Coach: Conte.

Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hungary).

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