Germany Finally Beats Italy...Barely

I'm really backed up at the moment and need to get my posts out soon.

But first my thoughts - and others - on the Italy-Germany Euro 2016 quarter-final match.

I'm not going to say a whole lot.

It's always a shame to see a match of this magnitude settled on the randomness of penalties kicks and boy was that high drama. But should anyone be surprised in what is among the all-time greatest sports rivalry? Personally, I didn't find it boring because these two intelligent giants played tactics.

Germany finally beat Italy for the first time at a major tournament -though it took a dramatic 6-5 win on penalties after a 1-1 draw following 120 minutes of play. It was a cautious game where both sides might have shown a bit too much respect and reverence leading to a tactical show down slowing down pace. In fact, the display of respect is something we rarely see by German sides. It's one of the major reasons why they always lost to Italy.

My theory holds where Italy always played with self-doubt and with a keen respect for their opponents, the Germans usually come over-confident and perhaps even cocky. This sort of mentality plays perfectly into Italian hands who tend to feed off this since they don't intimidate easily.

As for the game itself, let's examine a couple of points.

-Let's be clear, the Germans were indeed better on this day. 

-Of course Germans are going to say they deserved the win because they held the ball more. But ball possession as noted repeatedly here over the years is a misleading stat. It means little Germany held the ball. It's what you do with the ball that matters. Go a little beyond it and you find Italy had more shots directed at the goal and equal shots on target with a 42% shot accuracy to Germany's 30%.

Ball possession is not a mark of dominance.

Statistically, Italy used their chances slightly better. 

Which makes the charge of Italy 'parking the bus' all the more dubious. 

 -Germany got their tactics right - including shifting to a 3-4-3 signalling that Germany finally found its humility and granted Italy the respect it deserved. But this tactic could have gone awry for Germany if Italy were healthy in the midfield.

-I don't know why I keep hearing Germany were 'unlucky' with the penalty called in favor of Italy that eventually drew the game level at 1-1. It was a clear penalty and silly error by the defender. Boateng is the author of his own actions. The referee had no choice. They scored. Fair game. Own it.

The cognitive dissonance is impressive given how many penalties over the decades Germany got - some dubious - including one that provided them with a 1-0 World Cup win in 1990 over Argentina.

The charge Italy would not have scored in open play is more acceptable given how well Germany was playing but they didn't shut it down.

There is no doubt in my mind had Candreva and de Rossi played while bringing on Insgine earlier, Italy likely pulls out a win.

-Germany's technical skills were a notch above Italy. If that game opened up, Germany would have been more comfortable in that scenario.

Nonetheless,  here's my biggest take away where these two sides are concerned.

Germany is at its highest ebb at the moment while Italy at its lowest in a generation. Yet, Germany still could but muster a 1-1 draw against a team with a decimated midfield in full time at 120 minutes. It took clumsy penalty kicks to prevail...barely.

If I'm German, though a well-deserved victory with no apologies needed, I'm keeping the bragging rights to a minimum this morning.

Out of all the Italian teams that have taken on and beaten Germany, I hold this one in equal high regard. Strangely, I get the sense this galvanized Italy and provided them with a new sense of belief.

They made Germany sweat. They forced unforced errors on them. They made them miss penalties. They showed they're there for the taking.

Keep heads high Italy.

Go get the 5th star!

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