The waiting is at an end, and the time has come. The setting is the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux, and it is the ninth competitive chapter in the long-running – and up to this point one-sided – duel between the Nationalmannschaft and Italy – the Azzurri. Both teams have brought plenty to this competition, but tonight the path to Paris will end for one of them. Can Germany finally break their duck?
I thought I could just jump straight into the chit-chat about the fine weather in Bordeaux, talk about the kits – both teams are in their usual famous colours, by the way – or even wax lyrical about the unique stile of the stadium. As opposed to flipping about over yet another inexplicable tactical fidget by the Maharishi Jogi Löw.
So far, we have seen the German team develop nicely in this tournament. The move from the false nine to Mario Gómez making a welcome return up top. Benedikt Höwedes making way for the youthfully energetic Joshua Kimmich. Then the dropping of Mario Götze and the return of a reinvigorated Julian Draxler, who turned out what was arguably his best performance in a German shirt in the second round match against Slovakia.
It was as if the last piece of the puzzle had been put into place, with the team hitting the right notes and finding the right rhythm just at the right time in the competition. There was nothing much more the coach could do: stick with the formula, adopt the same approach, and finally beat Italy. Or so we all thought.
Cue the coach pulling another one of his last-minute tricks. A Dreierkette – three man defence – for the first time in the tournament, Draxler back on the bench, and Höwedes back on the pitch at left-back. You couldn’t make it up. As in 2012, Löw has decided to base his tactics around the opposition, rather than his own team’s many strengths.
Three at the back with two wing backs – a mirror match for the Italian lineup. There is one little bonus, with the influential Daniele de Rossi unfit and unable to play for the Azzurri.
I only hope that the Maharishi Jogi has got it right this time. Three at the back, four at the back, 3-5-2, 4-3-2-1, 3-2-3-1, whatever. This German team, man for man, has more talent that this Italian outfit. Let’s do this.
There’s a fantastic atmosphere in the stadium, and the two national anthems are enthusiastically received by both sets of fans. There is a minute of silence for the previous night’s terror attack in Bangladesh. The Italian team are all wearing black armbands.
1 min. Hungarian referee blows his whistle, and Germany kick off. Mesut Özil looks to send a cross into the Italian penalty area, but the Azzurri clear.
4 mins. Some early pressure from the Italians, who win the first corner of the match. It is poorly taken though, and Stefano Sturaro’s attempt to get the ball back into the danger area floats harmlessly wide.
5 mins. Emanuele Giaccherini looks to work his way past Jérôme Boateng, who concedes a corner. Again the delivery is not great, and the Mannschaft clear their lines.
9 mins. Germany win their first corner, which Özil plays short to Kimmich. The youngster’s cross is cleared.
12 mins. Kimmich looks to charge down the right and take on Mattia de Sciglio, but loses the ball. He looks to take ball back from Giorgio Chiellini, but the referee awards a free kick to the Italians.
13 mins. Sami Khedira pulls up awkwardly, and get up rather gingerly. With not even a quarter of an hour on the clock, this is not looking good.
15 mins. Lorenzi has the first show on goal, but his low and underhit effort is easily collected by Neuer. Meanwhile, Khedira’s match is over. The German number six makes his way to the touchline, and Bastian Schweinsteiger is on.
16 mins. Schweinsteiger takes the captain’s armband.
19 mins. The Italians are being neutralised in midfield and are looking more timid than usual coming forward, but by the same token there is little in the way of incisive movement from the Germans. Both teams have more or less cancelled each other out, and the game has acquired a cagey feel. Well, it is Germany versus Italy.
20 mins. A long ball from Mats Hummels is directed towards Gómez, but the big centre-forward can’t quite get there after finding a path through the two Italian central defenders.
24 mins. The game has settled into a tactical struggle, and there are a few snappy tackles coming in now. Italian coach Antonio Conte is off the bench, prowling on the touchline.
25 mins. Sturaro is late on Toni Kroos, and is given a stern lecture by the referee.
27 mins. Hummels dinks a smart ball into the box, and Schweinsteiger heads the ball into the Italian net. There’s a foul by the German skipper on de Sciglio though, and the Hungarian official signals for an Italian free kick.
28 mins. Germany break through the middle and Thomas Müller charges towards the Italian box, but is tracked down brilliantly by Marco Parolo.
31 mins. There is more pace in the game now. Kimmich’s misses his clearance and the Italians break down fast down the left, but the excellent Boateng reads the situation perfectly to get in front of Giaccherini.
33 mins. Germany are chasing down every ball and are winning challenges, but are unable to find anything in the final third. The Italians have been stifled going forward, but are looking solid at the back.
35 mins. Neuer collects a backpass from Kimmich, and his return pass is too close for comfort – and the boot of the lurking Italian forward Éder.
36 mins. At the other end, a left-wing cross from Jonas Hector takes a slight deflection, and Gianluigi Buffon collects at the second time of asking with Gómez bearing down on him.
41 mins. Kimmich sends a teasing ball in from the right towards Gómez, who has his first sight of goal. The cross is a little too high for the striker, who gets his head to the ball but sends it over.
42 mins. The first real chance for Germany. Hummels weaves and beats two defenders to find Hector, who finds Kimmich out on the right via Kroos. Kimmich’s ball inside is perfect for Müller, who is unable to hit his shot cleanly with the goal at his mercy. He cannot get any force on the ball, which ends up safely in the arms of Buffon.
43 mins. Moments later, the first real heart in mouth for the Mannschaft. Giaccherini beats the offside trap and last man Kimmich to collect Leonardo Bonucci’s pass, and just about gets to the byline to hook the ball back into play. The ball falls to Sturaro, whose low shot is turned behind for a corner by Boateng.
45 mins. Hector forces a corner as the clock ticks into injury time. Kroos’s kick is easily cleared, and Germany’s attempt to get the ball back into the danger area are repelled by blue shirts.
45+1 mins. The first half comes to an end.
After a slow start, both teams have upped the pace without ever really imposing themselves on the other. Chances have been few, with the best opportunities coming right at the end of a scratchy first forty-five minutes. The Mannschaft have edged the possession and territory, with neither side taking too many risks.
The unexpected withdrawal of Sami Khedira could well have put the German team out of joint, but Bastian Schweinsteiger has slotted in smoothly, and has even upped the tempo a bit. The real problem is whether he can last the full ninety minutes – and possibly extra time. This looks like it might just be one of those energy-sapping encounters.
Intriguingly tactical, or head-scratchingly tedious? You decided. Either way, it fits the usual Germany v Italy template.
46 mins. Italy get things back under way in Bordeaux.
47 mins. Plenty of possession for the men in white, but Schweinsteiger’s ball into the box is easily gathered by Buffon.
48 mins. The Italians get the ball quickly to the other end of the pitch, but Giaccherini and Éder’s endeavours are foiled by the German defence.
52 mins. More possession for Germany now, and Kimmich’s cross towards Gómez is cut out by Andrea Barzagli. The corner comes to nothing and Italy clear.
54 mins. Action stations at the Italian end now. Germany press forward, and Gómez holds things up nicely to set up Müller. The German number thirteen gets plenty of power on his shot which is acrobatically turned away by Alessandro Florenzi. The resulting corner skids dangerously across the box, but the Azzurri clear their lines.
56 mins. Sturaro goes in on Özil, and is finally shown the yellow card after gesticulating to the referee.
57 mins. Two yellow cards in the space of a couple of minutes for Italy, after de Sciglio takes out Kimmich. Kroos plays the free-kick inside for Boateng, whose ball into the box is cleared by Bonucci.
59 mins. Parolo swings out a high boot at Gómez, and and is the third Italian player to get his name in the referee’s notebook.
61 mins. Italy put a few passes together in the German half, and a cross towards Giaccherini is well cleared by Hector.
65 mins. Yes! Yes! Yes! Neuer sends out a long ball, which bamboozles and Italian defender and falls to Gómez. The big striker has plenty of work to do, and chases the ball down and keep it in touch. Gómez holds the ball up superbly as support arrives, and slips up a superb ball for the fast advancing Hector. The 1. FC Köln man’s ball back into the box takes a slight deflection off an Italian defender, but Özil is there to sweep it in! 1-0.
Mesut Özil strokes the ball past Gianliugi Buffon, and Germany finally get themselves in front
68 mins. Almost two! It’s Özil again, who dinks a lovely ball in towards Gómez who beats the offside trap. The striker is unable to get there at the first time of asking, but improvises brilliantly to send a smart backheeled effort towards the Italian goal. Buffon does equally brilliantly to keep it out, tipping it over the bar.
72 mins. Another enforced change for Germany. Gómez limps off, and is replaced by Julian Draxler. Hopefully it is a precautionary move.
74 mins. Italy move down the left and de Sciglio sends a smart ball in towards Graziano Pellè, whose first-time shot flies over the target.
77 mins. Florenzi sweeps the ball into the German box, and Boateng rises above his blue-shirted counterpart with his arms in the air. The ball takes an unfortunate deflection of his chest and inevitably strikes the big centre-back on the arm. The referee has no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot, and nobody has any complaints about the decision.
78 mins. Bonucci steps up to take the kick, which is brilliantly placed into the bottom right-hand corner. Neuer dives the right way, but can’t get a touch. Amazingly, it is the first time Bonucci has ever taken a penalty at this level of competition. 1-1.
Manuel Neuer dives the right way, but Leonardo Bonucci’s penalty is just too good. Italy are back in the contest
81 mins. Pellè has another shot that looks to be going wide, but Höwedes makes sure as he turns it behind for a corner. It comes to nothing, and Germany clear.
85 mins. Italy are showing far more energy now, as the Germans try to regain their composure.
86 mins. The first change for Conte’s men, as the excellent – and exhausted – Florenzi mkes way for Matteo Darmian.
88 mins. De Sciglio gets a sight of goal, but finds the side netting. Neuer has it covered though.
90 mins. Éder is too quick for Hummels, who is booked. It means that the central defener will be out of the semi-final should Germany get there. One could argue that he should never have been at risk after his unfortunate booking against Slovakia.
90+2 mins. Boateng and Hector combine nicely to set up Özil out on the left, who dangerous cross is well cleared by Chiellini with Schweinsteiger lurking with intent behind him.
90+3 mins. The final whistle blows. The game was won, but a moment of madness mixed with bad fortune has let the Italian bugbear back out of the box. As many people thought it might, this game is going the distance. Of course, we all knew it was going to end this way.
This is a typical Germany v Italy clash, with all of the usual classic ingredients. High tension, excellent defending, and a penalty kick to bring the dogged Italians back into the contest. This should have been over and Jérôme Boateng should have known better, but there can be no complaints about Viktor Kassai’s decision. So, just like in 1970 and 2006, it is into extra time we go.
91 mins. The Mannschaft restart. Thirty more minutes of pain lies ahead. Pellè is booked for a sneaky foul on Boateng.
93 mins. Müller bundles Chiellini over, and makes sure to let the Italian defender know about it. time to shut up and get on with the game, Thomas.
96 mins. Éder and Pellè combine again, but the Southampton man’s effort goes well wide.
97 mins. Özil is brought down by Parolo, and Germany win a free-kick out on the right. Kroos swings the ball in and it is rifled high over the bar by Schweinsteiger, but the referee has already blown for a foul after Bonucci stumbles under gentle pressure from Draxler.
101 mins. Müller has a couple of shots from just outside the box, and the second is deflected for a corner. It is taken short and the ball is swung inside again. Another corner, which is taken short again. Boateng lines up a long-range effort, but his low shot skids well wide of Buffon’s goal.
103 mins. Giaccherini goes down under pressure from Kroos, and grabs the ball in anticipation of a free-kick. He gets a yellow card instead.
105 mins. It is half time in extra time.
107 mins. Schweinsteiger floats a teasing ball into the box, and there is a moment of confusion in the Italian defence. They can breathe again as it goes behind. There’s a second change for Italy, as Lorenzo Insigne replaces Éder.
109 mins. Germany sweep up the middle of the pitch, and Draxler drives with purpose towards the edge of the box. Müller is waiting for the pass, but the Wolfsburg man gets it all wrong. The ball is badly overhit, Müller cannot get there, and what was a sniff of a chance has gone.
110 mins. Insigne looks to create something for the Italians out on the left, but Boateng has more than enough height to guide the ball safely back to Neuer.
113 mins. Insigne finds space to get a shot at the German goal, but it is straight at Neuer. The ‘keeper’s clearance is hit straight at the referee, and his blushes are spared when the official blows for a foul in Neuer’s favour.
115 mins. Müller wins a free-kick, making the most of a half-challenge from Chiellini. Boateng goes down in the box amid all the buffeting, and the kick is retaken. It floats over the danger area though, and the clock ticks inexorably towards a penalty shootout.
117 mins. Özil is looking menacing again, working his way into space before finding Müller whose shot is cleared by Barzagli. There are some shouts for handball from the crowd, but there’s no problem there. The referee waves play on, good decision.
119 mins. Özil’s snapshot is well hit and on target, but Buffon makes it look easy.
120 mins. Italy have enough time to make their third change before the end of extra time, as Simone Zaza comes on for Chiellini. Germany have not made us of a third substitute, with established penalty taker Lukas Podolski left on the bench. With Gómez also off, the first five penalties are going to be interesting.
120+1 mins. So there we have it. Elfmeterschießen it is.
The Italians are up first, in front of their own supporters. Lorenzo Insigne is the man who steps up, and he sends his spot-kick right side of the net as Neuer dives the wrong way. 0-1.
Toni Kroos makes his approach, and sends a nicely-taken kick to Buffon’s right. The ‘keeper dives the right way ans is at full stretch, but Kroos’s kick is just too good. 1-1.
Simone Zaza has been brought on by Italian coach Conte for the shootout, and hasn’t even had a touch of the ball. He takes what looks like a dozen ridiculous steps before striking the ball high, well over the crossbar and into the crowd – probably the most meme-worthy penalty since Sergio Ramos’s skyrocket for Real Madrid against Bayern München in 2012. Still 1-1, advantage Germany.
Thomas Müller hasn’t been able to buy a goal at the Euros so far, but can surely be trusted to take a penalty. Surely? Der Raumdeuter’s kick is poor, and Buffon doesn’t have to dive far to his lift to make an easy save. Germany had successfully converted twenty-two penalties in shootouts since Uli Stielike’s miss in Spain in 1982 against France; the record ends with, of all people, Müller. With two penalties taken, the scores remain level.
Andrea Barzagli by contrast has no hesitation, slamming his kick down the centre of the goal with Neuer diving to his left. Italy are back in front. 1-2.
Mesut Özil is next up for the Mannschaft, and he will be looking to banish any lingering memories of his spot-kick miss against Slovakia. His left-footed shot is well struck and Buffon dives the wrong way, but the ball pings off the outside of the right post. Just like that, the advantage has swung right back to the Italians.
Graziano Pellè approaches the penalty spot, knowing that a successful kick will put his team two in front. The pressure is too great however, and his tame effort skids low and well of the left upright. Neuer dives the right way, but just has to watch it roll harmlessly by.
The pressure is on the next kicker for Germany now, and Julian Draxler is the next man to take the twelve-yard test. He is up to the task, driving the perfect shot into the bottom right-hand corner. Buffon dives the wrong way, but would have got nowhere near even if he had read it correctly. The best penalty of the shootout so far. 2-2.
Having scored from the spot to drag his side back into the match, Leonardo Bonucci is Italy’s fifth kicker. He sent his shot to the bottom right last time – will he do the same again? No. This time he hits his shot towards the bottom left-hand corner. It is not a bad effort, but Neuer reads it perfectly. The German ‘keeper flies to his right to palm it away, and the course of the contest twists sharply in the other direction.
Time for Germany’s fifth and final penalty, and this is to win it. Bastian Schweinsteiger is entrusted with the responsibility, but scoops a poor kick into the crowd, where it is caught by a joyous Italian fan. That’s the first chance blown. After five penalties each, the score remains locked at two apiece.
Thomas Müller trudges back to the centre circle after missing his penalty, the first shootout blank for Germany in a shootout since Uli Stielike’s in the World Cup in 1982
Time to move on to those players who didn’t sign up to be one of the five, and next up for Italy is Emanuele Giaccherini. He sends it straight down the middle, and Italy are back in front. 2-3.
The pressure is all on the Germans, who now have to score to stay in the competition. Mats Hummels strolls to the spot, and sends a strong shot past Buffon. The Juventus ‘keeper reads it correctly and actually gets a hand on the ball, but Hummels’ kick is too strong. Hummels has a wry smile; time to breathe again. 3-3.
Time for Italy’s seventh kicker, who arrives in the form of Marco Parolo. His kick is also sent down the middle, with Neuer committing himself completely to the dive. The Azzurri are back in front, and once again it is all on the next German kicker to keep them the Mannschaft in it. 3-4.
FC Bayern München fans will surely remember Joshua Kimmich’s horrible penalty in the DFB-Pokal shootout against Borussia Dortmund, and it is now the youngster’s turn to play his part in this horrible lottery. No fear. Showing no sign of nerves, the youngster sends the ball low into the left-hand corner. It is too good for Buffon, who is close – but nowhere near close enough. 4-4.
Mattia De Sciglio is next up for the Italians, and strikes his shot firmly. There’s the sound of leather against metal as it hits the underside of the crossbar, but the ball still finishes up in the back of the net. Italy back again in front, are Germany back again under pressure again. 4-5.
Having given away the penalty that allowed Italy to equalise, there is additional pressure on Jérôme Boateng to keep German hopes alive. No worry. The big central defender is levels the scores again, stroking his penalty firmly into the left-hand side of the net. Again, Buffon dives the right way but cannot get a hand on it. 5-5.
Penalty number nine for the Azzurri, and Matteo Darmian makes his way forward. His shot is low to Neuer’s left, but there is no power in it. The German keeper is there in time, and makes the save! There have been some fantastic penalties from the Italians to keep the pressure on, but finally the pendulum swings back to the Mannschaft. It seems like an age since Schweinsteiger had the chance to finish things off, but now they have another opportunity.
That opportunity will fall to Jonas Hector, who has been one of Germany’s better players tonight in what has been a tough contest. The 1. FC Köln man sends a low shot that squeezes under Buffon – and into the back of the net. It is all over! It is time to wipe our brows and tie up the frayed nerves, as Hector’s kick seals a dramatic 6-5 win in the shootout. Germany have managed to miss three penalties in the shootout, and have still won the contest. Unbelievable.
Jonas Hector’s kick is on its way, destined to squeeze under Gigi Buffon and into the back of the Italian net. Endlich! The curse of the Azzurri is over
What a match, a typical Germany-Italy contest that lived up to all of the history. Germany have finally thrown off the Italian bugbear, and maybe now we can banish those bad memories of Mexico City, Madrid, Dortmund and Warsaw.
Thomas Müller’s penalty miss was the first for any Germany team in a shootout since 1982, and the three missed spot-kicks is more than the total amount of misses combined in major tournament competition since their first-ever Elfmeterschießen in the Euro 1976 final against Czechoslovakia. At this point, however, nobody cares.
Italy have more than played their part in this fantastic drama, but it is Germany who are marching on to a semi-final against one of hosts France or surprise package Iceland in Marseille.
Was für ein Spiel!
v Italy, Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, 02.07.2016
6-5 PSO (0-0, 1-1, 1-1 aet)
Özil 65. / Bonucci pen 78.
Penalties: Insigne 0-1; Kroos 1-1; Zaza MISS; Müller SAVED; Barzagli 1-2; Özil MISS; Pellè MISS; Draxler 2-2; Bonucci SAVED; Schweinsteiger MISS; Giaccherini 2-3; Hummels 3-3; Parolo 3-4; Kimmich 4-4; de Sciglio 4-5; Boateng 5-5; Darmian SAVED; Hector 6-5.
Germany: Neuer (c) – Höwedes, Boateng, Hummels – Kimmich, Hector – Khedira (15. Schweinsteiger), Kroos – Müller, Özil – Gómez (72. Draxler)
Italy: Buffon (c) – Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini (120. Zaza) – Florenzi (86. Darmian), Sturaro, Parolo, de Sciglio – Sturaro, Giaccherini – Pellè, Éder (107. Insigne)
Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hungary)
Assistants: György Ring (Hungary), Vencel Tóth (Hungary)
Goal Assistants: Tamás Bognar (Hungary), Ádám Farkas (Hungary)
Fourth Official: Szymon Marciniak (Poland)
Reserve Assistant: Paweł Sokolnicki (Poland)
Referee Observer: Hugh Dallas (Scotland)
Yellow Cards: Hummels / Sturaro, de Sciglio, Parolo, Pellè, Giaccherini
Red Cards: – / –
Ball Possession: 61% / 39%
Attempts on Target: 6 / 6
Attempts off Target: 6 / 4
Corners: 7 / 5
Fouls Committed: 14 / 8
Man of the Match: Manuel Neuer (Germany)