Euro 2016 quarter-final fantasy preview: Germany v Italy
The biggest blockbuster clash of the quarter-finals at Euro 2016 sees world champions Germany come up against 2012 finalists Italy.
It is a match that has the look of a final about it, rather than a last-eight meeting, and the winner of this game might well be made the new favourites to lift the European Championship trophy.
Both teams have been superb at the back throughout the tournament, with Germany yet to concede a goal, while Italy have only let in one, which was due to a mistake from the back-up goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu, who was filling in for the rested veteran Gianluigi Buffon.
Germany appear to be stronger in attack – Mario Gómez has two goals in two games since being added to the side – but Antonio Conte’s tactics have been spot-on throughout the finals. If anyone can find a way to stop the World Cup winners, it is the new Chelsea manager.
Saturday’s quarter-final looks like an unmissable match, but for those picking Euro 2016 fantasy football teams, what information is vital to know beforehand?
Germany v Italy head-to-head
Germany have yet to beat Italy in eight past tournament meetings, although they will go into this quarter-final as the favourites.
Most recently, the teams met in the semi-final of Euro 2012, when Italy won 2-1 thanks to a brilliant brace from Mario Balotelli, who appeared at that time to be on the brink of superstardom. Unfortunately, his career has failed to move on to the next level since that game.
Italy also beat Germany in the World Cup semi-final in 2006 on their way to the title, as well as in the 1982 World Cup final. The hoodoo goes all the way back to the 1970 World Cup semi-final, when Gianni Rivera hit an injury-time winner in a game swiftly dubbed the Match of the Century.
However, Germany can take heart from their performance the last time they came up against Italy, in a friendly that took place in March. Toni Kroos and Mario Götze put Germany into a 2-0 lead, with Jonas Hector and Mesut Özil also on the scoresheet in a 4-1 win for Joachim Löw’s men.
Germany fantasy players to watch
Löw has barely changed his team throughout the tournament, with Jérôme Boateng’s injury clearing up in time for the centre-back to score the opening goal in a 3-0 win over Slovakia in the last round. Boateng’s superb long-range passing from the back is crucial for Germany, while he has also contributed to their fantastic defensive record, which has seen goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, the stand-in captain, keep four clean sheets out of four at the finals so far.
Götze is perhaps at risk of dropping out of the team if Löw prefers the directness of Lukas Podolski, Leroy Sané or André Schürrle, but the coach could keep an unchanged team. Gómez is back on top form after a switch to Beşiktaş gave his career a new lease of life, while the curious case of Thomas Müller, still without a goal in the European Championship, continues to baffle.
The star man at the finals for Germany so far has been Kroos, with a WhoScored rating of 8.03 marking him out as one of the best players of the tournament so far. Kroos takes a lot of Germany’s set-pieces, but he does not provide a great deal of goal threat for his side. Mats Hummels, Sami Khedira, Joshua Kimmich, Özil and Boateng will miss the semi if booked.
Italy fantasy players to watch
Conte’s plans are currently in flux due to an injury to Daniele De Rossi that could keep the Roma midfielder out of the quarter-final. De Rossi will be given as much time as possible to prove his fitness and there is a concerning lack of viable alternatives in his defensive midfield position, especially as his back-up, Thiago Motta, is suspended after picking up a pair of yellow cards.
Antonio Candreva is also currently sidelined, leaving Conte needing to shuffle the pack for this game. Emanuele Giaccherini, not good enough for Sunderland but somehow a key man for Italy, could move into a central midfield role, while the energy and physicality of Éder and Graziano Pellè – who have three goals between them at the finals – will continue to lead the line.
The all-Juventus back line of Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci is yet to be breached at Euro 2016 as three of the foursome were rested for the 1-0 loss to Republic of Ireland in Italy’s last group game. Chiellini has been particularly outstanding, scoring the opener in the 2-0 last-16 win over Spain, earning a WhoScored rating of 7.77 at Euro 2016.
Something for Conte to keep in mind is how many of his players are at risk of missing the semi-final if they are booked against Germany. Buffon, De Rossi, Chiellini, Barzagli and Bonucci are all on a yellow, as well as Éder, Mattia De Sciglio and Pellè.