The UEFA Euro 2012 has moved into the semifinal stages. Thursday throws up yet another game flooded with household names from the footballing world.
Italy-Germany is a matchup between two sides that have traditionally been giants in the sport. The game may or may not turn out to be a spectacle, but one thing is for certain: the stakes are high, and the players will fight tooth and nail to win this one.
The Italians have for many years been lauded for having a watertight defense. It has always been seen as their main strength. This time is no different. The Southern Europeans’ game plan is built around its defensive prowess and this is exactly what makes Cesare Prandelli’s men so hard to beat.
In sharp contrast, the Germany of recent times is regularly heralded for its commitment to playing a fluid and flamboyant attacking style, and producing the results too.
Over the course of his tenure, Joachim Löw has added a number of exciting young talents into the national setup. Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer and Mesut Ozil serve as some celebrated examples of Löw’s policy of youth incorporation.
Speaking of injecting fresh faces into the national team, Marco Reus and Andre Schurrle’s inclusion in the starting 11 for the last-eight clash Greece was still unforeseen. Nonetheless, Jogi Löw’s experiment paid rich dividends and that too against a side that is known for its dogged defending.
The duo were involved in a number of smooth attacking moves from Die Mannschaft, many of which almost culminated in goals.
And it got me wondering: What were Lukas Podolski and Thomas Muller really offering the Germans in attack? Certainly not providing the cutting edge up front.
This is where Reus and Schurrle come in. Each one has demonstrated his abilities in the highly competitive Bundesliga. I see Löw starting the duo again, especially keeping in mind the nature of the opposition. Free-flowing football and fresh legs are the need of the hour for the upcoming game, and that is precisely what these two men will provide.
While Germany have been dubbed favourites by bookies ahead of this one, the men from Western Europe would do well to proceed with caution.
Italy, albeit weaker on paper, have it in them to pull off a miracle. Defensively astute, the Italians have some dangerous players up front and in the middle too. For me, midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo will be crucial. And don't forget the man who is, for many, the epitome of "expect the unexpected": Mario Balotelli.