Perfection lies in balance. Everything comes in pairs (almost) and perfection is attained when you can balance the two sides of the coin to get the optimum result.
Germany are balancing that coin on a knife-edge. They’ve been by far the most dominant team in the competition so far and the group stages seemed to be a breeze for them with the likes of the Netherlands, Portugal and Denmark left fighting for the other spot. They seemed to go into the quarterfinals with the intent to simply outscore Greece. Blitz them with pace and movement off the ball, pressurize them into making mistakes and be brutally accurate in front of goal. I know, its almost impossible to ‘plan’ accuracy, but if anyone can, its them pesky Germans.
Low decided to change his front 3 and went with an exciting combination of Andre Schurrle (or however you spell it) and Marco Reus on the wings and Father Time up front. Miroslav Klose might as well be a bobbing head on a stick, given the number of goals he scores with his head! Schurrle seemed to want to be the hero of this Greek tragedy, trying his luck from the most absurd of angles, trying his best to bail Greece out of trouble when under pressure from the Germans. Angela Merkel was not impressed.
Now, obviously its difficult to take a team who’s centre back is called Pappadpolous too seriously, but even so, they have won the European Championships pretty recently. Yet here was Joachim, trying out different combinations for the semis, because they’re obviously going to get there. Schweinsteiger had a bit of a nightmare in the first half an hour, repeatedly giving the ball away but then improved later on. Khedira seemed to have broken toes, so he would only pass the ball with his heels and see how that goes. But ofcourse, he scored that screamer of a goal so all is forgiven.
Overall, the Germans have been simply brilliant to watch. Fluid yet structured, and capable of holding possession as well as hitting teams on a fast break. Against Portugal they were made to struggle, but came through in the end, while against the Dutch, they outsmarted and outplayed them comprehensively. And that brings me back to the point I was making about balance. The Germans have the perfect mix of quality, experience, youth and skill. Its a squad that any manager, could mould to suit his style. They control the ball, and if not, the space. Ozil moved cleverly between the lines and always caused problems for the deepest midfielder. Lahm has been consistent on the left flank providing the width to stretch defences across the pitch. Hummels and Badstuber have both been solid, but rarely tested and this could be seen as Germany’s only slight weakness, if you can call it that. Manuel Neuer has pulled off some good saves and there is no doubt that he is a world class goalkeeper.
The Germans have so far figured out the weaknesses of the teams that they’ve been pit against but Italy in the semi finals will probably represent their sternest test yet. That’s not to say they won’t go through, but I can’t help but feel Andrea Pirlo will have something to say about it. The Italians came through a fascinating game against England, where they had 35 shots over 120 minutes and still failed to score. Some of those chances fell to bad boy Balo (read: imbecile) but De Rossi and Montolivo had great chances to finish England off. Pirlo seems to be the guy that Buffon put in charge to drag the team by the scruff of their necks through the tournament. Buffon rarely loses his cool, and his generous use of hair gel simply confirms what I always suspected. He moonlights as the boss of the Italian mafia. Pirlo is his trusted right hand man, with more skills than a circus juggler. You know its true.
All this adds up to an astonishingly high quality semi final with both teams looking very strong on their day. Italy will probably go into the game as slight underdogs, but that’s only because Balotelli will need 83 chances to score and the Germans probably won’t allow that many. There’s two things the Italians need to do to have any chance of going through. Firstly, they have to be solid in the opening half an hour and not concede an early goal. If the Germans score early then they’re going spend the rest of the game just sucker punching the Italians as they chase the game. Buffon will have to instill the fear of God in the Germans. Secondly, they simply have to score with the chances that they get. The German defence is not air tight and they will have chances. Whether they score or fall to Balotelli is what will be key. Apart from this, they will have to keep a close tab on Mesut Ozil. De Rossi will probably the man deputed to leave a few scars.
The greatest fear I have for this game though, is that it will go to penalties and just never end. After Pirlo’s display of nerves of alloyed titanium I doubt the Italians are too worried about taking penalties. But the Germans never miss. They just don’t. Where does that leave us? Here in india, that means I’m up till 4 a.m. Waiting for someone to miss. Ofcourse, after a point it will just come down to a coin toss. The Germans have probably prepared for that as well.
2-2 After Extra Time and Germany win by coin toss.