We now know Germany’s next opponents: old friends Italy, who claimed the final semi-final spot after a penalty shootout win against a brave, well-organised but ultimately toothless England side in Kiev.
While not massively impressive – apart from the delightful Andrea Pirlo who capped off a vintage performance with a penalty taken straight from the “Book of Panenka” – the Italians were by far the better side, and have reached the last four in spite of themselves and a dreadful pre-tournament run-in. Like the proverbial mauvais odeur, they are always there.
While many in Germany would have preferred England – natürlich – this is probably the best chance the Nationalmannschaft has to finally put their dismal record against the Azzurri in major tournaments to bed. Germany may be a clear second best to the Italians in the FIFA World Cup, but in European Championship finals they have never actually lost a game.
Well, OK, they haven’t won one either but there’s always a first time.
Closer to home, there have been stories doing the rounds of a mole in the German camp – some blabbermouth who has taken it upon themselves to spill team lineups well ahead of time to the media. Both Nationaltrainer Joachim Löw and skipper Philipp Lahm have let everyone know what they think, and we can only hope that this mysterious dark and furry creature remains out of sight come Thursday – especially if the coach decided to surprise us all with more personnel changes.
The officials for the match in Warsaw have also been announced, with the all-French team led by Stéphane Lannoy being given the honour. Monsieur Lannoy has already taken charge of a match involving the Mannschaft at this tournament – the first-phase encounter against the Netherlands.