Europe’s titans clash today when Germany and Italy meet in the plum Euro 2016 quarter-final, with huge stakes for both sides.
Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger is poised to make his first start in the Bordeaux match, while Italy’s veteran defender Daniele de Rossi faces a race to be fit.
Like two heavyweight boxers eyeing up their opponent before the first bell, both teams have talked up the respect factor and downplayed the significance of Italy winning their past eight meetings at major tournaments.
In the most recent matches, Italy claimed a 2-1 win in the Euro 2012 semi-finals, while Germany romped to a 4-1 win in a friendly in March.
Joachim Loew’s Germany insist they have no “Italy trauma” as they look to beat the Azzurri at the ninth attempt on a big stage.
Antonio Conte’s Italy have compared taking on the world champions as soccer’s equivalent of “climbing Everest.” Italy have their own trauma after crashing out of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in the first round.
To win, Conte’s team will have to become the first team to score against Germany at Euro 2016.
The clear, often repeated, German message this week has been of great respect, but no fear of the Azzurri.
As has been well documented in the media of both European powerhouses, Italy has a rare unbeaten record over Germany at major tournaments.
“It doesn’t mean anything to me that we have never beaten Italy in a big tournament,” Germany midfielder Toni Kroos said. “They are the best team we will have faced here. I’m looking forward to the game and I’m very optimistic.”
The question will be whether previous failures appear at the back of German minds should Italy take the lead in Bordeaux.
Torino striker Ciro Immobile is not impressed with the respectful noises coming from his opponents.
“We’ve beaten them so many times ... they’re just trying to cover themselves,” he said. “We know Germany are strong and will be sure of themselves, but our victory over Spain has really lifted our confidence.”
DEL BOSQUE RETIRES
Vicente del Bosque on Thursday brought the curtain down on one of the most successful managerial careers in soccer, saying he has resigned from the Spain job and does not expect to coach again.
His departure at age 65 came just days after the reigning champions crashed out of Euro 2016, a sad end to a trophy-laden career with club and country.
“Without a doubt, I have no intention to remain as coach, but you have to be discreet,” Del Bosque told Spanish public radio RNE, confirming Spanish media reports that he was stepping down.
“I have handled this issue discreetly, but it is a decision that was taken in advance,” he said.
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