Football

Germany have no fear for Italy

Loew and Mueller confident of ending the Italian curse

QUARTER-FINAL

GERMANY v ITALY

(Sunday, 2.50am, Singtel TV Ch 142 & 
StarHub TV Ch 220 - Eleven EURO)

Eight matches, zero wins.

Germany may be the world champions, but they are hardly the favourites going into the Euro 2016 quarter-final clash with Italy on Sunday morning (Singapore time).

In eight previous attempts, Die Mannschaft have never beaten the Azzurri in the Finals of a major tournament and will need to make history in Bordeaux to reach the semi-finals.

German fans will at least take heart from a 4-1 rout of a lacklustre Italy in their most recent meeting in a friendly in March.

Germany coach Joachim Loew insists that the world champions are confident of breaking their Azzurri curse on Sunday.

"We have no Italian trauma," Loew told reporters at the German's training base in Evian.

"We don't have any fear of them, just trust in our own skills. For me, that's cold coffee. I'd rather have a fresh espresso. We'll see how it tastes on Saturday."

Loew has experienced Germany's pain first hand as assistant manager when Italy spoiled their World Cup party on home soil in 2006 and, four years ago, when a Mario Balotelli double took the Azzurri to the final of Euro 2012 at Germany's expense.

Yet, Loew said that he has learnt his lesson from that semi-final defeat and, in particular, his inability to restrict Italian playmaker Andrea Pirlo, before leading Germany to a fourth World Cup two years later.

"Everyone makes mistakes, I wanted to shut Pirlo down and looking back, one must say the plan didn't work," admitted Loew.

"I have to take responsibility for that, none of us put in the performances we should have.

"The defeat helped in my personal development, especially for the 2014 World Cup. It was a good lesson for me."

Neither Balotelli nor Pirlo are with the Azzurri in France, but Loew knows the challenge Antonio Conte's side will post.

TIGHT GAME

"Form on the day will make the difference, it's going to be a tight game and the outcome is open," said Loew.

"This is a much better Italian side than in 2008 or 2010.

"They have mentally strong players. They can switch quickly from defence to attack, it's automatic, even without Pirlo."

Like his coach, Germany forward Thomas Mueller believes "Italy and their defence can be beaten", and remembers scoring against Gianluigi Buffon.

"It doesn't matter who scores," Mueller, who has yet to open his account at Euro 2016, told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"I've hit the post and the crossbar. If those had gone in, this whole discussion would be closed and I'd still be the one who always scores.

"I don't go crazy thinking about goals. I've always scored them."

Mueller managed to score two goals against Italy's defence when he faced them at club level, scoring against Juventus as he represented Bayern Munich.

"So yes, anyone can be beaten. You can beat the best goalkeeper in the world and you can defeat the world's strongest team," said the 26-year-old.

"But you can also lose and that's what happened to us against Italy in the past.

"If the past matters? You can't live only out of statistics. If we beat Italy on Saturday, then the legend of the 'Italian curse' will be dusted again.

"But we're in a good condition. There'll be no tears this time, I'm certain we'll be the ones progressing.

"We have class and we are compact. When I see us in training, we can't be scared of anyone."

Italy are famous for the BBC defence led Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini, but Germany are not short of talent, with Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng playing together.

"They give us safety at the back, they complete each other and they do a lot for the team," said Mueller.

"But that doesn't mean we can allow our opponents to charge at them five times. And there's the guidance of (Manuel) Neuer behind them. Together, they make for a fundamental department.

"But I'll say this again, even Juve conceded goals in the Champions League and even Italy can be defeated."

Mueller's next coach at Bayern is Carlo Ancelotti, who is Italian, and he may not appreciate a goal on Sunday.

"To the contrary! I must score many goals to show him how good I am," quipped Mueller.

- Wire Services.

We have no Italian trauma. We don't have any fear of them, just trust in our own skills. For me, that's cold coffee. I'd rather have a fresh espresso. We'll see how it tastes on Saturday.
— Joachim Loew on Germany's poor record against Italy

 

Vieri: Germany should fear Italy

Former Italy striker Christian Vieri believes the BBC defence of Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini and "madman" Gianluigi Buffon will end Germany's hopes of adding the European Championship to their World Cup triumph.

"Now everyone fears us. After all, when you have a madman as a goalkeeper and the best defence in the world, it's tough luck for the others," said the former Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan striker.

"Scoring against us is incredibly hard. Even just getting far enough to take a shot is an ordeal.

"(Below, from left) Chiellini, Bonucci and Barzagli are the last three defence specialists left internationally.

"There aren't any others who are so ferocious, intense and hard.

"Others have no idea what it's like to defend in Italy. We play by anticipating the opponent's move, biting their heels in every area of the pitch.

"Buffon? I remember that in October of 1997, we played against Russia in a qualifier for France '98.

"It was raining and snowing at once and the cold was awful.

"At one point, (goalkeeper Gianluca) Pagliuca gets injured and I see this beardless 19-year-old ready to come on in a short-sleeved shirt!

"Buffon really is a madman. But he's also a phenomenon, the (Albert) Einstein of the goal, the kind of guy who could keep blocking shots at the age of 50. He's the greatest."

The 42-year-old was then asked whether he agreed that Italy had closed Spain's cycle of European domination.

"Possibly. It's normal that after eight years of being successful and spectacular on the stage of world football, you find yourself in need of new blood," he said.

"Spain devoured everyone from 2008 onwards, after a while you lose a bit of hunger. In any case, they already have some fantastic youngsters pushing for their turn. They'll have no problem coming back.

"As for Italy's chances, they have to face the Germans, who are the world's strongest at the moment. They have no weaknesses, I believe.

PHENOMENAL CONTE

"So it won't be easy, but one thing I'm sure of: our lads will spit blood, they won't hold anything back and they'll make us proud whichever way it goes.

"We're still hungry, while they may have forgotten a bit of what that feels like after the last World Cup in Brazil.

"I expect some other stratagem by (Antonio) Conte. I don't think the Germans are too cozy about the match, because they have everything to lose."

Vieri said that the Azzurri "re-ignited everyone's faith" and praised Conte.

"There's nothing more beautiful than fighting for the Azzurri colours, and our boys have re-ignited the interest of a whole country," said Conte.

"Tactically, Conte is phenomenal. He's extremely well prepared and he's always looking for solutions.

"In brief, he's got guts. He always has the team under control and they are 23 champions with an exceptional coach."

- Wire Services.

PHOTOS: AFP
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