Stadion Narodowy, Warszawa, 28.06.2012
Özil pen 90+2. / Balotelli 20., 36.
Starting with their 3-2 win over Uruguay at the 2010 World Cup where they claimed third place, Joachim Löw’s side had embarked on a winning streak in competitive matches – a series that stretched over the best part of two years. Ten victories in qualifying, a perfect group phase and the 4-2 quarter-final win against Greece had seen the Germans extend this winning run to fifteen matches – a new world record.
The Nationalmannschaft’s semi-final opponents in Warsaw’s National Stadium were old adversaries Italy, a team that no German side had beaten in seven competitive internationals since the World Cup in 1962. Clearly, something had to give. Or not, as it turned out. In one of the most disappointing matches of the Löw era, a clueless German side were out-thought by an Italian side that once again got it right when it mattered.
In contrast to the Germans, Italy had done their usual thing in making their way to the last four. 1-1 draws against defending champions Spain and Croatia and a 2-0 win over group whipping boys Republic of Ireland had seen the Azzurri pip the Croats into second place by a point, and a 4-2 penalty shoot-out victory over a toothless England side in Kiev had seen them through to what was billed as the match of the tournament.
Germany’s dismal record against the Italians in major tournaments had featured heavily in the buildup to the match, with far too many painful memories to choose from. The 4-3 defeat in what had been billed as a “Match of the Century” in Mexico in 1970. The 3-1 defeat in Spain in 1982. Then, more recently, the painful 2-0 defeat on home soil in 2006.
This was just one more to add to this sorry list; a sorry yet sadly predictable final chapter to a tournament campaign that had promised so much. From the coach’s tactics through to the attitude on the field – coupled, admittedly, with a smattering of bad luck – one could argue that the result had been written on the wall at the start.
This young, dynamic German side had yet again been beaten by opponents that were fairly ordinary – with the exception of an ageing midfield genius who was made to look better than he was and younger than his years. One had to wonder if the performance from the German players – and the tactics adopted by Joachim Löw – if the opposition had been anyone other that Italy; had the other eleven men on the pitch not been playing in those azure blue shirts, might the outcome have been different?
Once again, Jogi’s Jungs had flattered to deceive.
A tired Italian side would be torn apart in the final by defending champions Spain, who unlike the Germans were clinical in front of goal. Showing no mercy, Vicente del Bosque’s side scored four answered goals to rack up the biggest winning margin in any European Championship final – and with it equal the Mannschaft’s record of three tournament victories.
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