Thursday, June 28, 2012

Germany v. Italy

After four consecutive hours of soccer without a goal, we await today's semi-final between Germany and Italy. Will one of these great powers break the scoring drought? Here are the lineups (each player's club listed in parentheses). Traditionalists will be happy to note that most of Germany's players come from the German league, while most Italian players come from the Italian league:

GK: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich)
DF: Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich)
DF: Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund)
DF: Holger Badstuber (Bayern Munich)
DF: Philip Lahm (Captain) (Bayern Munich)
MF: Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich)
MF: Sami Khedira (Real Madrid)
MF: Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich)
MF: Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid)
MF: Lukas Podolski (FC Koln)
FW: Mario Gomez (Bayern Munich)

Given this lineup, I am even more impressed with Chelsea's win over Bayern Munich in the European Cup.

GK: Gianluigi Buffon (Captain) (Juventus)
DF: Federico Balzaretti (Palermo)
DF: Andrea Barzagli (Juventus)
DF: Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus)
DF: Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus)
MF: Andrea Pirlo (Juventus)
MF: Claudio Marchisio (Juventus)
MF: Riccardo Montolivo (AC Milan)
MF: Daniele De Rossi (Roma)
FW: Mario Balotelli (Manchester City)
FW: Antonio Cassano (AC Milan)

And yes, Juventus (a mighty power in Turin) did win the Italian championship last season. In fact, they went 23-0-15, giving up only 20 goals in 38 games. So their defense really is that good.


  1. Outside of Brazil, these are the two best soccer nations in the world.

    Germany (or West Germany) has won the World Cup in 1954, 1974, and 1990, and they were runners-up in 1966, 1982, 1986, and 2002. They won the European title in 1972, 1980, and 1996, and were runners-up in 1976, 1992, and 2008. That's an amazing amount of success, although you will notice they have not won a major tournament in 16 years.

    Italy has won the World Cup in 1930, 1934, 1982, and 2006, and were runners-up in 1970 and 1994. Italy won the European title in 1968, and were runners-up in 2000.

  2. Remarkably, Germany have never won a game against Italy in a major tournament. The two teams have met seven times at the World Cup or the European Championships, and Italy has gone 3-0-4 in those match-ups.

    Italy's three wins were all huge. They beat Germany 4-3 in the semi-final of the 1970 World Cup. They beat Germany 3-1 in the final of the 1982 World Cup. And they beat Germany (in Germany) 2-0 (in extra time) in the semi-final of the 2006 World Cup.

  3. This is also one of the great uniform match-ups. Germany has their legendary white shirts with black numerals and black shorts, while Italy has blue shirts, white numerals and white shorts. It looks like a game between Penn State and Kentucky, if Penn State wore black instead of navy blue.

  4. In Britain, Germany are 5-to-6 favorites to win this game, while betting on Italy to win will get you odds of 15-to-4. If you want to bet on a draw (i.e., a match decided by penalty kicks), you will get odds of 12 to 5.

  5. Germany 0 - 1 Italy (19th minute)

    We have a goal! The always entertaining Mario Balotelli loses his defender and heads in an excellent crossing pass to give Italy the early lead. Germany will regret missing two prior chances to jump out in front.

    But now the game should get significantly better. Soccer is always better when one team is in the lead -- the really deadly stuff comes when teams are tied, and they're both afraid of falling behind.

  6. Germany 0 - 2 Italy (35th minute)

    Told you so. Trying to score, Germany kept pressing forward more and more. For decades, Italy has punished teams that pressed them, and they punished Germany just now. With most of the German team around their goal, Italy got the ball and launched a quick attack the other way. Soon Balotelli was all alone with the ball about 25 yards from the German goal -- and he blasted a spectacular show to double the Italian lead. Then he took his shirt off and looked tough, because that's just how he rolls.

  7. Germany 0 - 2 Italy (39th minute)

    Balotelli has had two good chances, and he's scored both times. That's the sort of play Portugal needed (but didn't get) from Ronaldo yesterday.

    The German fans look stunned. Germany had won 15 matches in a row coming into this game, and had ripped through the tournament with ludicrous ease. Now they're in big trouble -- they have to score twice off of what may be the best defense in the world.

  8. Germany 0 - 2 Italy (43d minute)

    Believe it or not, Balotelli appeared in only 23 of Manchester City's 38 league games last season. Part of that is because he is always getting in trouble -- at 21 years old, he's sort of the Dennis Rodman of soccer. But he is really putting on a show today.

  9. Germany 0 - 2 Italy (Half Time)

    The English will be pleased that Balotelli -- the only player in the match who plies his trade in the English Premier League -- has given Germany so much trouble today.

  10. Germany 1 - 2 Italy (Full Time)

    Germany gets a penalty kick in injury time to close within one goal, but they never come close to tying the game. As good as Germany's offense can be, they were never likely to score two goals in only 45 minutes against Italy's almost impregnable defense.

    So Italy runs its record in knockout games against Germany to a perfect 4-0 -- with each match taking place in the semi-final or final of a major tournament.

    It's been a great tournament for the nearly bankrupt countries of Europe. On Sunday, two of the ones with the biggest financial problems of all -- Spain and Italy -- will meet for the title.