FC Daily: Germany try to unlock Italy's defence; Wales rally past Belgium
It's Saturday, July 2, and the Euro 2016 quarterfinals roll on, and a pair of heavy hitters in Italy and Germany meet in Bordeaux.
Match of the day
- Germany vs. Italy (9 p.m. CEST/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2 and WatchESPN): The penultimate match of the quarterfinals is indeed a juicy one, as world champions Germany square off with an Italian team that has surprised nearly everyone at Euro 2016 and surpassed the fairly low expectations most had for the team ahead of the tournament.
Italy got here by knocking out holders Spain in fairly convincing fashion, while the Germans were simply too good for Slovakia in a 3-0 round-of-16 win. Germany's Thomas Muller has denied that Italy are his country's "bogey team" even though the Nationalmannschaft have never beaten the Azzurri in a competitive fixture.
Three key points
1. The German team trained in private at their base in Evian, rather than at the stadium in Toulouse, on Friday. Which begs the question, what does Joachim Low have to hide? The Germans have stuck to script so far in France, playing a 4-2-3-1 formation. But ESPN FC's Raphael Honigstein suggests Low could be tempted to mirror the Italian 3-5-2 on Saturday after beating Conte's side 4-1 that way in a March friendly in Munich. Even the German team are still in the dark as to how they'll line up against Italy, with Jerome Boateng saying: "We don't know yet if we will play with three or four defenders."
2. On the Italian side, Conte has called on his hard-working, organised, industrious side to be "super-extraordinary" against the Germans. One of the reason for the low expectations for Italy at the Euros was a perceived lack of star power, but that hasn't been a problem for the Azzurri thus far, who are on the verge of a "tactical revolution" under Conte, writes Miguel Delaney.
Meanwhile, Gab Marcotti writes that when the Germans do eventually break down the Italians -- and they will -- the team can feel secure with the experienced defence in Gianluigi Buffon and his three centre-backs Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini.
3. It's tempting to say that Wales shocked Belgium with their 3-1 quarterfinal win on Friday. But to be fair, Chris Coleman's team were unbeaten against Marc Wilmots' group in their last three meetings, and they did it again in fine fashion in Lille. Next up for Gareth Bale and Co. is an intriguing semifinal tie against Portugal and Bale's Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo.
Player of the day
Plenty to choose from in Italy-Germany, but this game could turn on the play of a thus-far quiet Thomas Muller. The Bayern Munich star hasn't been at his best in France and has Italy the "fairest sportsmen of them all" in the run-up to their quarterfinal meeting. An on-form Muller could be decisive for Germany as they try to solve the Rubik's cube that is the Italian defence.
Tweet of the day
DON'T TAKE ME HOME!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/cynlgwYzBQ- Gareth Bale (@GarethBale11) July 1, 2016
Stats of the day
Germany and Italy have won a combined eight World Cup titles and four European Championships. But the Italians have never lost to Germany in eight competitive meetings, with four wins and four draws, all at major tournaments. Italy's wins have all come in knockout-stage meetings, most recently a 2-1 upset in the Euro 2012 semifinals.
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