We were pretty excited at the prospect of Italy vs Spain and the game delivered in spades. And if we were excited then, this one has us foaming at the mouth. What. A. Game.
Italy ($3.85) surprised everyone by knocking out the reigning Euro champions, and the performance they put together in the 2 — 0 win was nothing short of a tactical masterclass. Italy’s 3-5-3 formation allowed them numerical superiority across the park and, final 15 minutes aside, Italy dominated the game. It wasn’t all down to the formation though, they used the ball perfectly in all phases of the game: pressing brilliantly from the front, overloading in midfield and soaking up pressure where they had to. And their counter attacking was simply breathtaking.
We’ve spoken already about Italy’s solidity at the back, but they showed again in the round of 16 that they’re not a one trick pony, which is something coach Antonio Conte has been saying all along. Big man up front, Graziano Pelle, has been in beast mode, winning everything and bringing runners into the game. He’s been just as lethal in the box too, grabbing himself a couple so far. The German back four will know they’re in for a battle here.
Germany ($2.25), for their part, cruised through the group stage without ever leaving second gear. If there were any concerns about their form, they were emphatically put to bed as die mannschaft put Slovakia to the sword in a 3 — 0 romp. The win was marked by a superb performance from youngster Julian Draxler, who looks ready to step into the ‘world class’ category.
An interesting subplot to the game is the fact that Germany have never defeated Italy in a major international tournament knockout match. Italy defeated Germany in the 1970 and 2006 World Cup semi-finals, the 1982 World Cup final and the Euro 2012 semi-final. It’s something the Germans are keenly aware of, and it’ll be fascinating to see how they respond. Whatever happens, it’s sure to be a hell of a game.
Verdict: draw ($3.00)
Confidence: Italy showed just how strong they are against Spain. Germany have the players, but Italy cancel that out somewhat with their strength in defence, imperious record and tactical mastery. Tough to call.