UEFA EURO 2012 – SemifinalsBy: JERRY AIGNER - StatFox
Kickoff: Thursday, 2:45 p.m. EDT
National Stadium Warsaw – Warsaw, Poland
Germany -133, Italy +450, Tie after Regulation +235
Over/Under: 2.5 Goals (Over +140, Under -200)
The second semifinal of EURO 2012 will pit Germany against Italy. As the final draws near, each of these teams will need to play to the fullest, something that may have already occurred. Germany has been steamrolling teams, putting in outstanding performances in both offense and defense. Italy has been re-ignited into a team flowing with midfield prowess and defense solidity. Both teams have been brilliant, but a few weaknesses must be noted and examined.
Firstly, Germany does pack a punch offensively, but defensively, has not been at its best. Of the remaining four teams, Germany is tied with Portugal for most goals conceded. While they have given up four, they have also scored the most goals out of each remaining team, putting nine goals past their opponents. Apart from these statistics, Mats Hummels has been sensational at center back for the Germans, and will look to continue his form against the Italians. Only the Germans can prove on Thursday whether they can score while being defensively sound.
Italy has been a force to be reckoned with in this tournament, but it has scored only four goals. Three of these tallies have been scored from set pieces. The Italians must find a way to score more goals from open play, especially against a rampant German side. For all of Italy's midfield domination, possession, and intricacy, they have proven to be quite wasteful. Mario Balotelli squandered multiple chances during his quarterfinal game against the English, and must be more clinical in front of goal. If Italy wants to move on to the championship match, the Italians must find a way to get the best out of their strike force.
Despite most previous matches at EURO 2012 showcasing a midfield battle, this match will be determined on which strike force can deliver. Both sides have a midfield capable of supplying their forwards, and there is no doubt that each midfield will generate multiple chances for their teammates. The game will be won on which strikers seize the opportunity, and convert their chances into goals. Mario Gomez has already scored three times in this tournament, while Italy's Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano have one goal apiece. Mesut Ozil and Andrea Pirlo are both contenders for Player of the Tournament, and they will once again pull the strings in midfield, with Ozil having three assists, and Pirlo two. Thursday's showdown will feature two teams who have dominated their previous opponents in midfield, and this will only continue. During the game, momentum will switch between both sides, and each team will get a number of opportunities to score. With a place in the final awaiting, it simply comes down to which team will find an eye for goal.
A narrow game should endure, as both teams are on form. Expect GERMANY to be victorious in a 2-1 thriller, as its dynamism will prove too much to handle for the Italians. A pick for the OVER is the best bet as well, with both teams posing a great threat offensively.