Germans 'escape' against Italy, but semis will be tougher
Loew's men 'escaped' against the Azzurri but semi-final task will be tougher
(Mesut Oezil 65)
(Leonard Bonucci 78-pen)
● After extra time, Germany win 6-5 on penalties.
Joachim Loew's logic dictates that Germany are now Euro 2016 champions-elect.
The reality, however, stands somewhere in the middle of a road to glory that is paved with a mixture of hope and, increasingly, fear for the world champions.
Before a belated quarter-final victory over long-standing foes Italy yesterday morning (Singapore time), Loew had deemed that the victors of the Bordeaux bash would inherit the title of firm favourites by default.
That pre-match prophecy was devoid of the hindsight that a likely meeting with France, one of their scalps from their triumphant World Cup run in Brazil two years ago, is certain to place Germany on the back foot again.
Belatedly seeing off the Azzurri was only half the battle. That gruelling passage into the semi-finals came at a hefty premium, with both key personnel and their time-honoured footballing identity sacrificed in the process.
Loew bested Antonio Conte in a war of attrition which will not live long in the memory.
Sacrificing Julian Draxler to nulllify Italy's tactical ideology, founded on the bedrock of a three-man defence, rendered Die Mannschaft as impotent as his opposite number.
Germany could - and should - have been out of sight shortly after Mesut Oezil had opened the scoring but Mario Gomez's penchant for style over simplicity proved costly.
OVER FOR GOMEZ
With Thomas Mueller still failing to fire, the Fiorentina striker had become the main attacking outlet, but arrogance took hold when basic affirmation should have stood.
Mueller needs all the help he can get, having seen an end to his long-standing European Championship drought denied by Alessandro Florenzi's acrobatic goal-line block.
Gomez's absence for the rest of Euro through injury, combined with Mats Hummels' suspension and doubts over Sami Khedira's fitness, threaten to see Loew's hand further forced heading into the semi-final showdown in Marseille on Friday morning (Singapore time).
Hummels' ineligibility, in particular, will intensify the spotlight on new Bayern Munich teammate Jerome Boateng, should the Germany coach persist with a three-man backline.
Redemption may have come the defender's way in the subsequent penalty shoot-out, but his unorthodox style, in attempting to head a clearance with both arms raised, gifted Italy a previously unattainable avenue back into their quarter-final encounter.
Relying on Bastian Schweinsteiger in Khedira's absence also creates fresh grounds for concern.
The Manchester United midfielder's relative lack of match fitness leaves him ill-equipped to cope with the rigours of their remaining campaign.
With potentially up to four hours' of game time remaining at the Finals, Schweinsteiger is not known for his powers of longevity.
It was something to which Pep Guardiola had alluded last summer and France will doubtless seize upon.
However, the 30-year-old's presence saw Loew's experiment with pragmatism and deliver a useful party trick, which could work again if all else fails against France.
The Germans stayed cool as the pressure mounted, while Italy's flawless first-half discipline gave way to cheap fouls and three bookings after the break.
In the unrelenting heat of the penalty shoot-out, both sides buckled, but the Azzurri buckled even more under the strain.
France, or even Iceland, may well be a different kettle of fish, though.
The hosts will be carried by an emotional wave of an entire nation, the Icelanders will free of any pressure and even more confident if they get to the last four.
Neither will be undone by Loew's one-dimensional approach, if he does opt to leave Draxler on the bench again.
Loew's big guns must prove themselves favourites in more than just name.