Joachim Löw’s side would close out 2013 with two prestige friendlies, the first of which would take place in Milan’s famous San Siro against old rivals and tournament bête noire Italy. The encounter would give the Nationaltrainer the perfect opportunity to guide his team to their first win over the Azzurri since 1995, and perhaps exorcise some of the ghosts still lingering after last year’s disappointing Euro semi-final defeat in Warsaw.
Unfortunately, this would not happen despite the Nationalmannschaft having the better of what would be a well-contested game with a little dash of good old-fashioned second-half spice including some not-so-friendly nose jabbing and a last-minute shot off the post. Italy would take their only genuine opportunity on the night, while the Germans – sporting their new all-white look – would find themselves hindered by not only a solid Italian defence but also the woodwork.
When watching a game like this, it is sometimes easy to understand why some German players may have an inferiority complex when facing the men in blue: even when they are the better team, they still cannot seem to engineer a win.
Facts and Stats
Germany’s dismal record against Italy is well known and has been documented many times: you can see an overview of their meetings in major tournaments right here on this site. The all-time statistics read a sorry tale: before this meeting the two teams had met on thirty-one occasions since 1923, with the Italians winning fifteen and the Germans a mere seven. Of those seven, none had ever taken place in a major tournament.
It would be the third meeting between the two sides in Milan, but surprisingly the first to take place since the Second World War. The first match in 1923 would take place at the old Arena Civica, while a renovated San Siro would host the Germans on 5th May 1940 – less than a week before the invasion of France and the escalation of the conflict in Western Europe.
Germany’s last meeting with the Azzurri would be that infamous 2-1 defeat in Warsaw, but prior to that they would have the better of a 1-1 draw in Dortmund – scene of yet another heart-breaking defeat to the same opposition in the 2006 World Cup semi-final. As for the Mannschaft’s last victory, that would take place on 21st June 1995 in Zürich – a 2-0 win as part of a number of friendlies marking the 100th anniversary of the Swiss Football Federation.
The game would also see the Mannschaft take to the field in their new all-white Trikot, a break from established tradition and the iconic white shirts and black shorts.
After a bright start from the hosts Germany would take an early lead – and from that point on largely dominate an encounter that would for the most part be played in midfield. Mats Hummels’ goal from a Toni Kroos corner would be slightly against the run of play, but as time went on Joachim Löw’s side would look increasingly comfortable with ‘keeper Manuel Neuer having little to do. Sami Khedira would hit the post just shy of the twenty-minute mark, as the Germans briefly threatened to overrun their opponents.
Unfortunately for the German coach, a defensive lapse would lead to Neuer having to pick the ball out of his net after twenty-eight minutes. With the ball rolling harmlessly towards the corner flag all Hummels needed to do was smash it up the field, but would instead try to caress the ball to Kroos. The resulting hospital pass would allow two players not renowned for their attacking prowess – centre-back Leonardo Bonucci and right-back Ignazio Abate – to pull the Azzurri back into the match with a well-crafted goal. After that, Neuer might as well have taken a nap as the German defence – and Jérôme Boateng in particular – took good care of Italian front men Mario Balotelli and Pablo Osvaldo.
The woodwork would deny the Mannschaft again just after the thirty-minute mark when a spectacular long-distance effort from André Schürrle pinged off the crossbar with Italian ‘keeper Gianluigi Buffon clutching at thin air, and Jogi’s boys could have considered themselves unlucky to go into the break with the scores still level.
The second half would see few chances, and the German midfield would find it difficult to get into gear against Cesare Prandelli’s well-drilled unit. Kroos was sluggish, Schürrle was reduced to making the odd dangerous foray into enemy territory, while Thomas Müller and Mario Götze quite literally disappeared for long spells of the match. Replacements Marco Reus and Mesut Özil would be little better, with the Arsenal playmaker’s most memorable moment being a speculative effort that flew well over the target. Perhaps the most concerning moment for the German coach would be seeing the influential Khedira hobble off the field after sixty-seven minutes.
If just to make things a little more exciting, an innocuous challenge from Kroos on Thiago Motta would lead to a gathering in the middle of the pitch – and in between the words being exchanged the volatile Motta would quite literally attempt to put Kroos’ nose out of joint with an errant finger. To Kroos’ credit he didn’t make a meal of what was clearly a red-card offense by the Brazilian-born midfielder, and with both players being booked that would be the end of that.
Italy would finish brightly, but the final drama of the evening would come with the very last kick of the game two minutes into added time. After Benedikt Höwedes’ well-struck effort had cannoned off the inside of the post with the diving Buffon beaten, the ball would roll into space – with Reus set up perfectly to roll it home and score what would have been a deserved late winner. Cue the arrival of Sven Bender, a mess of tangled legs, and yet another missed opportunity.
Conclusion and Ratings
They may always end up the same way, but meetings between Germany and Italy are never dull and this would be no exception. Löw’s side would take the lead early on and would be unlucky not to be at least one goal in front at half-time, and the oh-so-close moment right at the death would be the perfect summary of games between the two sides over recent years. Given that he would be without the services of the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, İlkay Gündoğan, Miroslav Klose and Mario Gómez, it would be an encouraging performance as the coach begins to bring together the twenty-three names that will be on the list for next summer’s festivities in Brazil.
Apart from the one defensive lapse that would lead to the Italy’s equaliser, it would be a solid display by a German defence that appears to be improving with every game – though the aim will be to eliminate this weakness completely come next summer. It’s one thing complaining about last-gasp opportunities and hitting the woodwork, but it is also worth considering that the team would be just one hoofed clearance away from what would have been a deserved 1-0 win.
The injury to Sami Khedira would turn out to be far worse than it would look out on the pitch, and news would quickly follow of his being out of action with a torn cruciate ligament until well into 2014. With Schweinsteiger and Gündoğan already on the mid-term casualty list the defensive midfield unit has taken a considerable battering, and Löw could well be forced into trying out other options should things not improve as the World Cup rolls ever closer.
A quiet evening for the FC Bayern München ‘keeper, who would be called into action to make just one regulation save in the second half. Had no chance with the Italian goal.
A solid display at right-back by the Schalke 04 skipper, who with the rest of the defensive unit put up a decent show against a hard-working Italian attack. Could easily have won the game with his lovely last-minute strike that would crash off the inside of the upright.
Having been given an extended run in the team and playing as part of a solid unit at Bayern, Boateng just seems to be getting better with every game. He has the perfect combination of pace and strength, and would be frequently involved in disrupting the Italian play.
Scored his second international goal to give the Mannschaft the lead, but was guilty of trying to do just a little too much when caught in no-man’s land by the corner flag. One slightly overhit pass, and Italy would be level. Other than that, it would be another decent showing by the Borussia Dortmund man.
Having worked his way back into the international reckoning the HSV left-back hasn’t put a foot wrong, and would show both his pace and versatility. If he continues to play like this there is a decent chance he may edge ahead of Marcel Schmelzer for what is a crucial position in the German back four.
Following on from his position-switching at Bayern, the skipper would start the game just in front of the back four, and as expected would slip into the role seamlessly. Lahm remains one of the most versatile and effective players in the team, and while not doing anything massive special would help keep things ticking over.
Khedira would once again excel in his role as the team’s anchorman, and would be unlucky not to double the team’s lead with his strong shot that crashed against the post. What would be another solid performance would be marred by his having to leave the field prematurely after sixty-seven minutes with a torn cruciate ligament. The Real Madrid man is likely to be out of action well into the new year, and may well struggle to be fit for the World Cup – he would be a major loss. Was replaced by Sven Bender.
An ordinary game by the FC Bayern man’s high standards, with the highlight of his evening coming deep into the second half following an altercation with Thiago Motta. Was jabbed in the face by the Italian and would receive a yellow card for his pains, but did the right things and just got on with it.
An inconsistent showing by the FC Bayern winger, who continued to run at the Italian defence for little reward. Was bot as sharp as he could be, and was well marshalled by the Italian defence. Was replaced by Lars Bender with three minutes remaining.
Could very easily have scored a spectacular long-range goal to make it five goals in three matches for the Mannschaft, but his shot that bounced off the crossbar would be the closest the Chelsea man would come to scoring on what be a slightly disappointing evening. Made way for Marco Reus just before the hour mark.
Like the rest of the midfield, a somewhat flat display by the young playmaker. Contributed little and was well looked after by the men in blue. Replaced by Mesut Özil after fifty-nine minutes.
Replaced Schürrle, but didn’t make that much of a difference during his thirty or so minutes on the pitch. Could very easily have claimed the win for the team right at the death, but would be foiled by his own team mate with the empty goal at his mercy.
Probably the most disappointing performance of the evening, the usually effervescent Özil would look flat and subdued after replacing Götze. Lacked ideas in the middle of the field, and his only real contribution would be a speculative loing-range effort that would float high into the crowd.
Replaced Khedira after sixty-seven minutes, and put in a solid enough performance. Though lacking Khedira’s guile, Bander would do enough to keep things tight. However, he would get himself in a horrible tangle with Reus right at the end with victory just a simple tap-in away.
A five minute cameo for the Leverkusen man, having replaced Müller.
Neuer (3), Höwedes (3), Boateng (2), Hummels (3), Jansen (3), Lahm (3), Khedira (2), Kroos (4), T. Müller (4), Schürrle (3), Götze (4). Subs: Reus (4), Özil (4), S. Bender (4)
Neuer (3), Höwedes (2.5), Boateng (2), Hummels (3), Jansen (3.5), Lahm (3.5), Khedira (3), Kroos (4), T. Müller (4), Schürrle (4), Götze (4.5). Subs: Reus (4.5), Özil (4.5)
Neuer (3), Höwedes (3), Boateng (2), Hummels (3), Jansen (3), Lahm (3), Khedira (3), Kroos (4), T. Müller (4), Schürrle (4), Götze (5). Subs: Reus (4), Özil (5), S. Bender (3)