So, no return to the Ukraine after what was planned to be a two-week break in Poland. Poor tactics, mental collapse, another defeat to bogey side Italy, and it’s all over. Just like that. I’ll save the post mortem for afterwards – on with the minute-by-minute report, which makes for painful reading. You will hopefully just read it the once; I on the other hand had to write it, and re-read it at least twice.
The starting eleven announced, and I am already scratching my head. Weird formation named by Jogi Löw, with Mario Gómez being named up front – fair enough – and Lukas Podolski being brought back on the left. Hmm. More curiously however is the selection of Toni Kroos, ostensibly out on the right as part of the usual 4-2-3-1. No Marco Reus, no André Schürrle. A very negative line-up, and one that appears to contradict all that has been good about this German side since 2010.
Given that he has got everything right so far I will trust the coach’s judgement, but this rejig is just too bizarre for me. Nobody expected this, and it looks like he has picked a team to play the Italians at their own game. Löw is really trying to earn the name “Maharishi Jogi”; his tactics remain enigmatic. Maybe I’m worrying just a little too much.
Captain Philipp Lahm starts his 14th European Championship finals match, a German record taking him ahead of Jürgen Klinsmann and Thomas Häßler. It’s also Bastian Schweinsteiger’s 13th EC finals match. The Nationalmannschaft have already set a world record of fifteen successive competitive wins, and will be looking to make it sixteen. A victory this evening would be the team’s 500th overall, and would finally bring to an end the negative record against the Italians.
It’s form against history this evening: in overcoming Sweden and France both England and Spain have laid old ghosts to rest, and it is up to this young German side to finally throw the azure blue monkey off their backs. There are a number of other little meaningless statistics one might wish to use as positive omens: Germany have not lost while wearing this current incarnation of the white Nationaltrikot, and have also never lost on Polish soil. The latter is perhaps a little meaningless, given that all their previous matches on Polish soil with the exception of the 4-2 quarter-final win against Greece have been against, erm, Poland.
The teams emerge led by French referee Stéphane Lannoy, and the atmosphere is Warsaw’s impressive National Stadium is electric. Germany are in their Schwarz und Weiß and the Italians in their traditional blue and white ensemble. The anthems are played – the Italians to a man belting out theirs with enthusiasm – and the two captains deliver speeches as part of UEFA’s “Respect Diversity” campaign.
1 min. The pre-match formalities over, the teams get into position and Italy get things under way on what is a pleasant evening in Warsaw.
2 mins. Germany win a throw out on the left and the ball is swung into the box, but ends up nowhere close to the malingering Gómez.
4 mins. The half-German Riccardo Montolivo picks the ball up in the German half and tries to find Mario Balotelli with a lovely through ball, but Manuel Neuer is quickly out to quell the danger and collect.
5 mins. Germany win a corner out on the left, and Mats Hummels doesn’t make a strong enough connection as Gianluigi Buffon almost makes a meal of it. The ball appears to come off Hummels’ knee, and Andrea Pirlo is on the line to clear for Italy. It looks suspiciously like a handball by the Italian, but the French referee waves play on. Probably the correct decision.
6 mins. Sami Khedira wins another corner out on the right but it comes to nothing.
9 mins. It’s all rather tense and scrappy at the moment, but Mats Hummels shows again why he has been rated as the best defender of the tournament as he calmly dispossesses Mario Balotelli in his own penalty area.
11 mins. Germany indulge in some keep-ball that looks suspiciously like tiki-taka, but Sami Khedira tires of all this and decides to have a crack from distance. He sends the ball into the Italian box but it is easily collected by Buffon.
12 mins. A smooth move from the Mannschaft from left to right, and the marauding Jérôme Boateng’s cross from the right is almost muffed by Italian ‘keeper Gianluigi Buffon and inadvertently knocked behind by Andrea Barzagli as Khedira arrives at the near post. So close to an own goal and so close to arriving at the feet of Khedira.
13 mins. The German corner is swung in and Buffon has to punch the ball clear from Toni Kroos’ shot. Suddenly the men in white are starting to exert a little pressure on the Italian defence.
14 mins. Mats Hummels is called for a foul on Balotelli. It is the centreback’s first foul of the tournament.
17 mins. The ball is given away in midfield and Italy put together a neat collection of passes. Montolivo is able to get a shot in from just outside the box, and Neuer collects.
18 mins. Italy get another shot on target as the livewire Antonio Cassano gets in a curling right-footed snapshot. Neuer again is solid and secure as he catches the ball cleanly.
20 mins. The German defence is opened like a can of worms. Cassano collects the ball down the left where Boateng is out of position, and turns Hummels inside out before crossing he ball into the danger area. There to meet it is Balotelli, whose positioning is perfect as he beats Holger Badstuber to lob the ball past the helpless Neuer. Germany have had the better opportunities, but it is the Italians that are on the scoreboard. 0-1.
An image that will remain burned in the memories of German fans for years to come. Goalscorer Mario Balotelli struts like some Roman gladiator, while Philipp Lahm slouches past.
22 mins. Germany are behind for the first time in any Euros match since the 2008 final, and the defence were completely torn apart. Now we’ll see what this young side are really made of.
24 mins. Boateng gets a cross in from the right, but Gómez is unable to make good contact with his header and sends it wide.
27 mins. Mesut Özil gets a little space to run at the Italian goal as he picks up a nice lay-off from Gómez, but tries to pass the ball into the net giving it straight to Buffon.
30 mins. Toni Kroos sets himself up for a shot at goal, but slips slightly before sending his shot wide of the target.
33 mins. Boateng makes another surging run down the right and swings in a firm cross into the box. Lukas Podolski arrives at pace at the far post, but Italian right-back Federico Balzaretti arrives in the nick of time to force the ball behind.
34 mins. The busy Montolivo collects a pass inside the German box, but cannot find his feet to shoot and is dispossessed by Bastuber.
35 mins. The play quickly switches to the other end, as the impressive Khedira picks up the loose ball and pings a shot that is palmed away by Buffon for a corner.
36 mins. Almost inevitably the corner comes to nothing, and Italy break at pace. Montolivo sends out a long pass from just inside his own half finds Balotelli, who outpaces Philipp Lahm before thumping it home into the top right-hand corner. Balotelli whips off his shirt and stands like some muscled Roman statue as the Germans shout at each other all around him. The Italian is booked for his post-goal antics, but I guess he won’t be worrying too much about that. 0-2.
39 mins. Germany have to get a goal quickly, but are completely shellshocked and all over the place. Podolski is sent through into space on the left, but is let down by a poor first touch. It’s actually too poor for words.
45 mins. Germany try to break down the left, but Lahm’s cross is easily collected by Buffon.
45+1 mins. Podolski wins a corner out on the left, but the delivery fails to clear the first defender. Utterly dire. A serious team talk is needed at half time, as this team are seriously short of ideas at the moment. The whistle blows for half-time.
The two teams come out after the break, and there are changes for Germany. Marco Reus and Miroslav Klose are on for the awful Podolski and the disappointing Gómez. Why Kroos is still on the field Gerd only knows, but at least the right players are out there now. It may well be too late however, as this is Italy we are talking about here. The only team to have come back from two goals down at half-time in a Euro finals match was of course Germany, back in 1976 when they went on to beat hosts Yugoslavia 4-2. There is no Dieter Müller out there, unfortunately.
46 mins. We’re under way.
48 mins. The sprightly Reus is immediately in on the action and works himself into a shooting position on the right side of the Italian penalty area, but after doing all the hard work his shot is weak and easy for Buffon.
49 mins. Great movement from the Mannschaft – that man Reus again – and Lahm is in with a chance, only to send his shot high over the bar. These chances have to be taken.
53 mins. Germany have started the second half strongly, but need a goal to get back into this.
55 mins. Özil flits into the box and gets behind the defence, but his cutback can’t find Khedira. The ball is just not falling for the Mannschaft here.
56 mins. Bastian Schweinsteiger gives the ball away, but Italy are unable to capitalise. The play quickly switches to the other side, and Özil’s neat pass to Klose is brilliantly intercepted by Leonardo Bonucci. Kroos’ corner comes to nothing.
58 mins. Italy make their first change as Alessandro Diamanti comes on for Cassano.
60 mins. Balotelli works himself into a shooting position but is wide of the target. As the play swings to the other end Bonucci scythes down Kroos just outside the box. Reus smashes a great free-kick which is tipped onto the crossbar and over by Buffon.
64 mins. Thiago Motta is on for Montolivo.
66 mins. Italy win the ball in the middle of the field and Diamanti has an audacious long-distance attempt from the halfway line. Neuer is able to collect.
67 mins. Diamanti and Claudio Marchisio play a lovely one-two, and the latter unleashes a shot on goal that flies to just wide to Neuer’s left. That was a decent chance, and would certainly have wrapped things up.
69 mins. Having taken a knock – or suffering from cramp – Italy’s two-goal hero Balotelli is replaced by Antonio di Natale.
71 mins. Thomas Müller is on for Boateng as Jogi Löw rolls what looks like the final dice.
73 mins. A poor back-pass from Lahm puts Neuer under pressure, and the sweeper-keeper almost comes unstuck as he scratches the ball away for an Italian throw.
75 mins. Marchisio has a chance to make it three as Badstuber slips, but he send his shot wide with Di Natale screaming for a pass in the centre. Italy should really have out this out of sight by now; time is slipping away here, as is the German Euro dream.
77 mins. Özil tries to slip the ball inside to Müller, who wins a corner out on the left. The Eckball is swung in, but Hummels balloons his header over the bar.
79 mins. Diamanti is past Lahm on the right, but he slips on the same area of the pitch as Badstuber did earlier. Moments later Pirlo send in a ball for di Rossi, but Neuer beats him to it.
80 mins. Kroos has a chance to shoot from distance but makes an awful connection to send the ball high and ugly over the bar. This is not going to happen.
82 mins. Di Natale is in the clear and has an excellent chance to wrap things up, but sends his shot wide and into the side netting. Moments later Germany lose the ball again and Balzaretti has it in the net, only to be flagged for offside.
84 mins. Daniele De Rossi is show the yellow card for a foul on Schweinsteiger. Germany win a corner, but the set pieces have been beyond dreadful. There’s another corner moments later, with the same result.
85 mins. The dynamic duo known as “Müller-Reus” play a tight one-two inside the Italian box, but Balzaretti makes a fantastic challenge as Reus is about to line himself up for a shot. The corner end with Kroos sending in another shot which flies over the bar.
88 mins. Müller sends in a ball into the box from the right, but it is all to easy for Buffon.
89 mins. Motta is booked for a foul on Schweinsteiger. The free-kick is worked into the box and Klose smartly keeps the ball in only for Hummels to scuff the ball against Buffon before Bonucci shovels it away for Germany’s millionth corner. Kroos send the corner in from the left, and Özil sends his shot wide of the target.
90 mins. Four minutes of additional time are being signalled.
90+1 mins. Out of nowhere, a chance for the Mannschaft. Under pressure from the energetic Klose, Balzoretti controls the ball with his arm, and Germany are awarded a penalty. Özil strokes it home in to the top right-hand corner to tighten the scorline, but it is surely too little too late. 1-2.
Mesut Özil finally gets Germany on the scoresheet from the penalty spot, but there’s little or no consolation.
90+3 mins. It’s madness out there is Neuer is playing keeper-cum-sweeper-cum-striker, and Hummels gets a yellow card for dissent – for this, read nothing – as the decision goes the other way.
90+4 mins. Germany win a free-kick out on the right, but rather than punting the ball upfield Schweinsteiger simply rolls it forward, and the referee blows for half-time. Perhaps Jogi is now regretting not leaving Marcel Schmelzer at home and bringing Cacau along for the ride. He would have been perfect in this sort of situation.
While the men in blue and white celebrate, those in Schwarz und Weiß are just left staring into the Varsovian evening sky. They started off as favourites, but have once again been undone by poor tactics, flawed execution and an Italian side that were excellent. Chances were missed and opportunities spurned, but there’s nothing more than can be said. Italy clearly deserve to be in the final.
If you want the post-mortem, it’s coming. Believe me, it’s coming.
v Italy, Stadion Narodowy, Warszawa (Semi-Final) 28.06.2012
Özil pen 90+2. / Balotelli 20., 36.
Germany: Neuer – Boateng (71. Müller), Badstuber, Hummels, Lahm (c) – Khedira, Schweinsteiger – Kroos, Özil, Podolski (46. Reus) – Gómez (46. Klose)
Italy: Buffon – Balzaretti, Bonucci, Barzagli, Chiellini – De Rossi, Pirlo, Marchisio, Montolivo (64. Thiago Motta) – Cassano (58. Diamanti), Balotelli (70. Di Natale)
Referee: Stéphane Lannoy (France)
Assistants: Frédéric Cano, Michael Annonier (France)
Goal Assistants: Fredy Fautrel, Ruddy Buquet (France)
Fourth Official: Howard Webb (England)
Yellow Cards: Hummels 90+4. / Balotelli 37., Bonucci 61., De Rossi 84., Thiago Motta 89.
Red Cards: – / –
Attempts on Target: 8 / 5
Attempts off Target: 7 / 5
Corners: 14 / 0
Fouls Committed: 13 / 19