Ahead of Saturday’s hugely-anticipated quarter-final match versus Italy, Germany look well on course to win the European Championships for the first time in 20 years.
The world champions look head and shoulders above the rest of the field and are now only three matches away from glory.
Italy will be the first test for Joachim Löw’s side and whilst Chelsea-bound Antonio Conte has guided his side to impressive victories over Belgium and Spain, it’s hard to see how they can beat the efficient Germans.
Manuel Neuer has yet to concede a goal in all four games in France this summer and it actually goes back to the 2014 World Cup semi-final when he last conceded in a major international tournament – Oscar’s consolation for Brazil in their 1-7 humiliation.
Germany’s defence has also allowed the fewest attempts on their goal from the opposition, whilst only Iceland have attempted fewer efforts on goal than Italy of the eight remaining nations.
Credit to Italy for coming as far as they have but you cannot help but think Gianluigi Buffon is going to be helpless on Saturday when the likes of Mesut Özil, Toni Kroos, Thomas Müller and Julian Draxler are creating chances for themselves, each other and striker Mario Gómez (wearing some of the best boots as pointed out by Royal Vegas Casino).
Bundesliga 365 expect the back three to be pulled apart like Juventus were by Barcelona in the 2015 UEFA Champions League final (Giorgio Chiellini missed the final through injury). Full-backs Joshua Kimmich and Jonas Hector bombing forward will also help Germany stretch the defence and open spaces for their stars to get clear shots in on Buffon’s goal.
Germany are fully-expected to dominate the possession with Toni Kroos pulling the strings in midfield. Daniele De Rossi limped out of Italy’s second round win over Spain and is a doubt for this quarter-final. The 32-year-old would be a huge loss given that Italy came to the tournament without Marco Verratti through injury and Thiago Motta is suspended. Motta has actually replaced De Rossi in all three of the AS Roma midfielder’s starts in this tournament which brings up another problem for Conte.
Many said this was one of the weakest Italian teams heading into an international tournament in years, and this is even though they failed to make it out of their group in Brazil two years ago! This was largely down to the lack of talent going forward. Southampton’s Graziano Pellè is their leading striker and both of his goals have come on counter-attacks in stoppage time to make it 2-0 for the record. Éder has one goal in this tournament – as many goals as he scored for Internazionale following his January move.
Matteo Darmian offers the width down the right whilst none of the central three are too attack-minded – Marco Parolo, Emanuele Giaccherini and Daniele De Rossi. How can they possibly break down this solid German defence?
If the two favourites go through in the bottom half of the draw then it will be a Germany-France semi-final – a rematch from the quarter-final in the World Cup two years ago when Mats Hummels scored the only goal of the game.
This French team is bang average – late winners to see off both Romania and Albania – two nations that never made it out of the group, then drawing 0-0 with a Switzerland team who won only one of their four matches this summer and that was versus 10-man Albania. They weren’t impressive against the Republic of Ireland until 10 minutes in the second half of their second round clash. Even then, the opposition had three days’ less rest and looked shattered before France turned the game around.
France versus Germany in Marseille on Thursday 7 July has the makings of a complete mismatch for Didier Deschamps’ side and we could see similar scenes to those of Brazil in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup – a thrashing for the hosts (but I don’t expect it to be close to 7-1).
Belgium, Portugal, Wales or Poland in the final? Not even worth discussing. How many people will even bother watching Germany try to outscore Spain 4-0 Italy from four years ago…