It will be like a final before the final. The world stays glued in anticipation of the quarterfinal game between Germany and Italy, by far the two best teams in the 2016 Euro Cup. The venue is perfect for the winners, because Bordeaux is one of richest wine-producing regions of the world and the sparkling bubbly will not be in short supply for victory celebrations. Based on past match records, Germany have never beaten Italy in their last eight tournament meetings. But that doesn’t mean they cannot do it in their ninth match on Saturday. In any sport, it is always the performance of the day that counts and historical figures are not so important. Germany are World Cup champions and tonight they have a chance to prove their superiority in Europe and they will not let such an opportunity slip away. Beginning with the league phase, the side coached by Joachim Low hasn’t lost a single match with a goalless draw against Poland being their worst performance. But Italy will not be an easy meat. Antonio Conte is a charged up man since Italy dethroned defending champions Spain 2-0 in Paris last week. This was the same score they notched up against Germany in the 2012 Euro semifinal. In the five matches of Euro 2016, Italy have lost 0-1 to Ireland on June 22 but won all other matches. Therefore, the two European football giants look equally matched and the fans are assured of an interesting and keen battle ahead. Meanwhile, Portugal and Wales have already booked their places in the semifinals and the fourth quarterfinal game between France and Iceland will be played at Saint Denis on Sunday.
2014 World Cup champions Germany are three wins away from also claiming the Euro Cup for the first time since 1996, when they defeated Czech Republic in England. But they will have to climb the Italian wall on Saturday night to fulfill their ambitions. Antonio Conte’s Italy will be a difficult side after their clean victory over 2008 & 2012 champions Spain. Conte has brushed aside comments about his side not being gifted with exceptional talent. The Azzuri coach has used his organizational skills to plan even the minutest detail, in which every player knows what to do and when. Besides beating Spain last Monday, Italy also scored an impressive 2-0 victory over Belgium in the league phase. These two victories give the team a greater resolve to do well in the crunch game against Germany on Saturday. However, there are a few handicaps that Conte will encounter. Midfielder Thiago Motta was suspended during the match against Spain and in the same match, Daniele De Rossi was injured. Another doubtful starter is Antonio Candreva, who has contracted a hamstring injury. These three have been vital for Italy and their absence will weaken the squad somewhat. On this count, the German slate is clean and every player is available. Low’s team has had a great Euro 2016 and in all their matches, they launched early attacks and succeeded. But Low is likely to change the strategy against Italy. After watching the Italians dominate Spain, the Germans may concentrate more on the defense in Saturday’s game. Apart from scoring two goals against Spain, Italy created several more opportunities and didn’t allow Spain much respite. As the time ticks away so do the heartbeats and a great game is certainly on cards. The 42000 capacity Bordeaux stadium is not likely to offer any extra seat tonight.
Meanwhile on Thursday, the Portugal-Poland quarterfinal was decided on penalty shoot-outs. Poland took the second minute lead through Robert Lewandowski’s goal but 18-year old Renato Sanchez became the third youngest scorer in Euro Cup history, when he cancelled that goal in the 33rd minute. During the shoot-out, Portuguese custodian Rui Patricio denied Jakub Blaszczykowski by diving to his left and making a great save. Portugal converted all 5 chances and won the match 5-3, when Ricardo Quaresma converted the decisive kick. In the other quarterfinal, Euro debutants Wales shocked Belgium 3-1 to set up the semifinal clash with Portugal on July 6. Belgium took an early 13th minute lead through Nainggolan but Wales responded with three goals. Ashley Williams found the equalizer in the 31st minute before Robson-Kanu made it 2-1 in the 55th. Vokes enhanced the final score to 3-1 four minutes from time.
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