Germany bid to end Italy curse
From the 1970 'match of the century' to the 2006 summer fairy tale, tournament clashes between Italy and Germany have become part of folklore and their Uefa Euro 2012™ semifinal clash on Thursday promises to be no different.
The Germans, three-time world and European champions, go into the encounter on a 15-game winning streak in competitive matches, but knowing they have never beaten the four-time World Cup winners in seven tournament encounters.
"We will break the Italy curse," said Germany winger Lukas Podolski, who was part of the Germany team beaten 2-0 by Italy in the 2006 World Cup semifinal.
"There are opponents that are the most feared ones but we want to reach the final and hopefully Italy's run ends with us."
Clashes between Germany and Italy over the past decades live long in the memory, notably the 1970 World Cup semifinal in Mexico City where then European champions Italy advanced, winning 4-3 after the two sides scored a staggering five goals in extra time.
Italy were up against a formidable West Germany side, the 1966 World Cup runners-up who had staged a spectacular comeback in the previous round to beat England 3-2 after extra-time, coming back from 2-0 down.
The German reporters at the time had called that game the 'match of the century' but they were in for a much bigger treat a few days later despite Italy's reputation as the kings of catenaccio.
An early goal from Roberto Boninsegna looked to have been enough until Karl-Heinz Schnellinger, who at the time played in the Italian league, snatched a stoppage time equaliser with the only goal he ever scored for Germany, to force extra time.
A frenetic 17-minute five-goal spell with Gianni Rivera grabbing the winner just after Gerd Mueller's second goal had levelled the game at 3-3 left the Germans in tears after Franz Beckenbauer played with a dislocated arm in a sling late in the game.
It is no surprise that a plaque at the Aztec stadium commemorates the thrilling encounter as 'the match of the century'.
The two sides met on the big stage again in the 1982 World Cup final after Germany had battled from two goals down in their semifinal against France to advance on penalties.
Italy had been improving throughout the tournament and went ahead early in the second half through Paolo Rossi, who finished as top scorer.
Two more goals killed off the Germans and Paul Breitner's late consolation penalty, which the once bearded Maoist and at the time moustachioed midfielder refused to celebrate, did little to soften the blow.
There was brief respite for the Germans at Euro 96 when a goalless draw and a saved penalty from Germany keeper Andreas Koepke saw them advance and Italy go out at the group stage.
But almost 10 years from that day the Germans suffered yet another bitter moment at the hands of their southern European rivals.
In front of a home crowd in Dortmund, Germany, who had never lost in the stadium before, were bidding for a spot in the 2006 World Cup final. It was to be the crowning moment of what they still call the summer fairy tale.
It turned out to be yet another defeat against Italy with two last-gasp goals deep in extra time.
The Germans were punished for failing to take their chances during the 90 minutes and when Italy coach Marcello Lippi threw on two forwards in extra time in gangly Vicenzo Iaquinta and Alessandro del Piero, the 65 000 fans should have suspected what was coming.
A minute before the end of extra time Del Piero curled in a corner, the Germans failed to clear and Andrea Pirlo set up Fabio Grosso to score
With the Germans desperately pouring forward in the dying seconds in the hope of rescuing a draw, as they had done against other teams so often in the past, Del Piero struck in stoppage time to kill them off and take them into the final where they beat France for their fourth World Cup victory.
Germany captain Philipp Lahm, Podolski, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose and Per Mertesacker, all part of the 2006 team, are still playing for the national team and will hope the time has come to finally break the Italian curse.