So, we all know what is happening this Saturday evening. The media are stirring the pot and building things up nicely, and nearly every football website and blog is awash with this history of this great – or, perhaps not so great – fixture. Well, unless you happen to be Italian. Germany versus Italy, the fixture we all did not want.
I could have decided to write yet another long and detailed pre-match preview, but I have probably written a book on this subject already. There is little joy to be found, and we can only hope that the story changes when the Mannschaft and Azzurri lock horns for the ninth time in a competitive international in Bordeaux.
Four years ago, we had all looked forward to the Euro 2012 semi-final in Warsaw with anticipation, only to be seriously discombobulated by the Maharishi Jogi’s bizarre last-minute tinkering of the starting eleven. Thomas Müller on the bench. Marco Reus on the bench. Toni Kroos out of position. An almost morbid obsession with ageing Andrea Pirlo. All on a day when the temperamental Mario Balotelli decided to turn up.
This time around, it looks a whole lot simpler. The coach has found what everybody largely agrees is the best starting eleven. The false nine theory has been shelved and hopefully locked away forever, and there is a sense of calm and equilibrium in the squad. There are no moles, no apparent injury concerns, and no special Italian playmakers to worry about.
I don’t actually think we need a match preview. It is a simple case of same again please, Jogi.
Rather than dig into the history of this fixture for the umpteenth time, I’ll simply share some of the best pieces I have written in recent years. The stories are largely depressing, a footballing version of Tales from the Crypt. So read them if you dare.
Germany had played Italy seven times in competitive internationals before than evening in Warsaw, and you can find a potted review of all of them here.
Then there’s the minute-by-minute match report for those masochists among you who might wish to go through that again, and the player ratings and analysis if you want to revisit my post-match rants. After the tournament I put everything together, sparing nothing in telling the story of how Mario Balotelli ruined my summer.
Since that horrible Polish palaver, Germany have played Italy twice in friendly matches. In November 2013 in Milan, Germany dominated the game but could only come away with a 1-1 draw (minute-by-minute report, analysis and ratings) but there were more encouraging signs three months ago at the Allianz Arena in Munich, where the Azzurri were put to the sword as the Mannschaft racked up their biggest victory against their old foe. (Minute-by-minute report, analysis and ratings).
Not much can be taken from a friendly of course, but it surely cannot hurt the confidence of the team right now. The German players are inventive and offer a heady mix of power, skill and guile – surely this will be enough to overpower a well-drill and well-coached, but ageing Italian back line.
If Jogi’s Jungs go out and play half as well as they did against Slovakia, we will finally throw the azure blue monkey off our back. We can then start thinking about going all the way to Paris and winning this thing.