Italy looked closer to victory in one of the most wretched sequence of penalty misses after the two teams ended 1-1 in regulation and extra time. The Azzuris led 2-1, 3-2, 4-3 and 5-4 while missing four penalty attempts. Germany missed three of their own but Jonas Hector’s decisive last kick shut the door on the Italians. Hector got really lucky because Italian custodian Gianluigi Buffon almost saved his shot but the ball slipped away under his body and crossed the goal-line. The 6-5 penalty shoot-out victory took Germany into the semifinal, where they will play the winners of Sunday’s game between France and Iceland.
Germany finally ended their Italian jinx after failing on the last eight occasions. But the end of match could only be decided after 18 penalties, of which only 11 could be converted. Big stars on both sides like Muller, Ozil, Bonucci and Schweinsteiger and three others missed their spot kicks in an utterly horrible display. They either shot wide or sent the ball flying into outer space and when they shot properly, it was only to give some undeserved credit to the goalkeepers. The whole shoot-out affair became funny before the match ended in Germany’s favor.
Earlier when the match began, Joachim Low used a 3-5-2 formation for Germany that resulted in a higher percentage of ball possession and game control. But the Germans lost Sami Khedira in the 16th minute due to injury. Khedira was replaced by Schweinsteiger. Until the break, no team could produce any promising goal-scoring opportunity, although there was a half chance for Mario Gomez. However, Gomez couldn’t threaten the Italian defense and headed over the bar. Thomas Muller also passed up an opportunity after Toni Kroos had sent him a good ball. Italy also had one good chance, when Emanuele Giaccherini barged down from the left flank and sent a nice cross for Stefano Sturaro. But Sturaro’s drive was cleared by Jerome Boateng.
After halftime, Germany shot into the lead in the 65th minute. Gomez had broken away from the left side and waited. Then he sent a fine pass for Jonas Hector. But the ball got deflected off an Italian defender and Mesut Ozil, who was a late entrant on the scene, hammered a half-volley past Buffon from close range. Germany’s 1-0 lead lasted just 13 minutes, before Italy found the equalizer. Florenzi’s corner kick came to Giorgio Chiellini and he flicked towards the goal. However, Jerome Boateng committed an avoidable handball error that resulted into the spot-kick. Leonardo Bonucci was not to err in slotting the ball to the bottom-right corner and scores became level at 1-1. After the regulation time ended, the 30-minutes of extra time also couldn’t produce any goals and it was time for the high drama of penalty shoot-outs.
In the shoot-out, Italy got the first chance. Lorenzo Insigne calmly side-footed to the right as Neuer moved to the left. Germany made it 1-1, when Toni Kroos’ precise kick found the net. Buffon dived the right way but couldn’t save the shot. When substitute Simone Zaza took the next kick for Italy, he uncharacteristically zoomed the ball into the orbit. But Germany also missed their next chance with none other than the mercurial Thomas Muller played straight into the hands of Buffon. Italy went into the 2-1 lead as Andrea Barzagli drove down the middle with Neuer lunging to his left. With Mesut Ozil missing Germany’s next chance, Italy were still 2-1. They couldn’t improve the score as Pelle missed the next penalty by dragging a feeble ball wide off the post and when Julian Draxler scored for Germany, scores became level again at 2-2. Then Italy missed another chance, when Bonucci’s shot was saved by Neuer. But the score still remained 2-2 after Schweinsteiger also missed for Germany. Now the next 6 penalties were all converted with Giaccherini, Parolo and de Sciglio scoring for Italy and Hummels, Kimmich and Boeteng converting for Germany. The score read 5-5 at this point. But when Italy’s Darmian couldn’t beat Neuer, the next spot-kick became crucial for Germany. Jonas Hector was their man and to his shot, Buffon dived correctly to the right only to see the ball rolling under his body into the goal. Germany went through into the semifinal with that 6-5 shoot-out victory over Italy. But the drama became ludicrous in the end with so many penalties wasted by both sides.
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