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Jun 2012
16:45 Comments (10)

Italy won themselves a place in Sunday’s final in Kiev after effectively beating Germany. They were more superior than what the final 2-1 reflects, as Germany just got closer in the last minutes of the game when Ozil scored a penalty. Prandelli’s approach to the game was decisive against a helpless German squad that seemed unable to find solutions as the semi final became more challenging. The classification of the transalpine side may have beaten betting odds, but maybe it wasn’t a big surprise for someone who had been watching the whole game when the French referee blew the final whistle. Let’s analyse what we saw and start, if you want, a debate.


Both sides started the match with the systems they had more often been displaying since the tournament began: 1-4-3-1-2 for Italy and 1-4-2-3-1 for Germany. We saw from the beginning that Low’s side didn’t move the ball quickly enough to be able to surprise the Italian defence. The blues, on their side, were showing a good balance. The goalkeeper and the back four proved strong, and furthermore they accumulated many players in the middle, curiously the channel the germans were using to break through. As already mentioned, they were good with the ball and when Germany tried to press Pirlo they always found De Rossi as an alternative dropping his position to receive the ball and if they could not play with their midfielders then they played long with their strikers. A great master plan accurately executed. To finish, Cassano played with freedom between the lines serving as valuable support for the midfielders coming from behind and Chiellini, mainly, provided width in attack. That was the origin of the first goal, Chiellini passing the ball to Cassano - which was badly defended by Hummels - provided a cross for Balotelli who headed the ball to the back of the net after winning the position too easily to Badstuber.

If that wasn’t enough, the change of positions between Ozil and Kross didn’t surprise the Italians, who defended their corresponding zones strongly regardless of which players got into them. Schweinsteiger was the organiser of the German’s game but his team lacked width. Ozil moved inside creating space for Boateng to go forward, more than Lahm, but he never got to the by-line so his crosses were not too difficult to defend for the Italians. Mario Gomez didn’t get too involved, mainly because they didn’t have possession of the ball and because there were not too many free spaces to get into. In summary, it was a very dark setting for Low’s players who started to fear that things could take a turn for the worse. And they did.

The 2-0 arrived after a corner for Germany. The Italians left Balotelli and Cassano in front, with three German players defending them. Lahm as a sweeper and Podolski marked Mario. When Montolivo regained the ball Podolski left Balotelli, who ran behind Lahm to score a second goal exhibiting powerful capacity.

At half time Prandelli’s side had a clear advantage, but that was not the worst of it for Low. His rivals were more adaptable and were fairly leading the game, whilst Germany hadn’t been able to play on the wings and were hardly ever comfortable on the pitch.

No solutions

After what happened in the first half and a potentially negative end to the story, Joachim Low tried to look for a reaction after half time and made two substitutions which we will now analyse. On the one hand, Reus went in for Podolski and on the other hand, Klose went in for Mario Gomez. Reus played more on the right side and the German attack started to gradually change. He looked for more 1 v 1 situations against the rivals starting from wider positions, which created more problems for the Italian defence, that now had to become more open leaving bigger spaces in the middle and allowing the powerful German second line get through more easily.

Prandelli then realised that his team needed fresh legs and Diamanti and Motta went on as substitutes for Cassano and Montolivo. He wanted to keep possession of the ball to protect his partly achieved victory and knew that sooner or later they would find spaces behind the German defence if they were able to handle the Germans’ pressing.

After these changes the scenery wasn’t much better for Germany and they made their last substitution. Muller in for Boateng, and Schweinsteiger as a right fullback to deliver crosses. But it didn’t work as the team lost its shape. Reus, who was a threat playing in wide areas, went inside, Kroos moved to the left wing getting into the middle creating more space for Lahm to go forward than in the first half.

This desperate attack by Germany allowed Italy to counterattack creating dangerous chances in front of Neuer, who contributed to the feeling of anxiety by playing very up front, close to the half way line. The plan was not working for Germany and a 3-0 seemed closer than a German goal. Italy were defending in high numbers and launching dangerous counterattacks.

When it looked that the game was coming to its end and nothing else was going to happen, Germany were awarded a penalty. The ball had clearly hit Balzaretti’s arm and the referee gave a penalty for Ozil to score the 2-1 which added some excitement to the last minutes of the match. But the score wouldn’t change and eventually it reflected what had happened during the whole game.

In conclusion, we can say that Italy was the fair winner, showing how to control the game and being able to adapt to the different circumstances they faced and providing alternatives. We now have a final. Spain and Italy, who already faced each other in the first game of group stages, will deliver the Euro 2012 champion. An excellent and well deserved final to enjoy.

10 Comments Send us your opinions
29/06/12 at 19:25:01 #1
Jeeten B
Hi Rafa, an excellent article as always. Always a joy to read your thorough analysis. One question i have is, do you think Germany were too focused on putting the shackles on Pirlo? We can see many situations last night where Pirlo had possession and almost immediately, 3 German players were around him, trying to close him down or win back possession. Pirlo, who is very good at keeping the ball at his feet, then manages to exploit the open space by the German midfield and find his other teammates like De Rossi and Monto to then launch dangerous attacks. Do you think this was one of the key issues in last night's game?

Thanks, Rafa


Hello, when they were pressing Pirlo, De Rossi was always available and he has quality too. In the next game Motta can play, so it will be the same. These three players can play so you can't press only Pirlo. Thanks.

29/06/12 at 19:30:00 #2
Rafa Italy is the most tactically efficient team in the tournament for me and they are improving every match, i found them better balanced than Spain. my question for you is doesn't a 4 2 3 1 formation suit more than the 4 3 3 formation the Portuguese are using? I think it will make them more comfortable and flexible. what do you think Rafa?


Hello, I agree with your comment about Italy, they are doing well tactically and they can change the system. Spain will have more problems to do it because they used to play always with the same system. If you want to cahnge you have to train and you don't have time in this tournament. Thanks
29/06/12 at 22:49:46 #3
Excellent Article :)
29/06/12 at 23:41:10 #4
Really great article Rafa.

When facing a diamond midfield, I think it's very difficult to control in the middle. Who picks up who is quite difficult to organise. The way you try and get around it is by keeping the lines close together but though Germany were trying to do that and press, there was still space for Italy in the middle, particularly with the way Balotelli and Cassano manipulated the German defence with their movement.
30/06/12 at 00:51:59 #5
We saw in Italy game against England that they were most dangerous when they are afforded to play a few more passes than usual,because next what is going to happen is passing ball in the hole between lines where they always have player like Montolivo or one of forvards to shoot from there. How to prevent these situations or stop it when it comes,if you play strict 4 4 2,and opponent play diamond midfield?


Hello, all the systems have to have variations. The 1-4-4-2 can't be rigid, so one striker has to help the midfielders if it is necessary. Thanks.
30/06/12 at 01:15:31 #6
Fantastic analysis Rafa, btw, another key issue, do you think that Schweinsteiger also contributed a lot to the lack of mobility of Germany's midfield team since he didn't look that match fit?

And regarding the final Italy vs. Spain, do you think Spain's strikerless formation is perfect to nullify the Italian? Xabi Alonso, Busquets and Xavi can press the Italian trio (De Rossi, Montolivo, Marchisio) and Cesc Fabregas will press Pirlo when they loose the ball so Iniesta and David Silva can exploit the Italian flanks? I saw a bit gap there, and in the semifinal, the Italian full backs have been skinned so many times by Reus and Ozil.

Thanks Rafa.


Hello, in my opinion the problem of Germany was up front, the offensive line not the midfielders. Also the full backs could attack more.

Also, I agree, the italians will have more problems in the wide areas. Thanks.
30/06/12 at 04:08:11 #7
Germany started the game with 2 opportunities from corners, 1 was nearly an own goal from Barzagli. Then a goal on counter attack from Balotelli meant the German side needed to change the game plan, they had no pace out wide and could not stretch a compact back 4, this was proven with the half time changes, maybe starting with Reus , Schurlle, and Klose it could have been a very different result. The first goal was always going to be the most important, and mistakes by Hummels and Badstuber made it easy for Italy. Germany chasing the game from then were always going to leave themselves exposed. Italy deserved the win, playing with control and patience, and very solid. The final will be fascinating, Pique vs Balotelli, Alonso vs Pirlo are key. Do you think Del Bosque will play with a striker?


Hello Pat, interesting your opinion about the other semi final.
Del Bosque is playing without striker and when he used the striker, normally he changed him. So, it seems they will play the same, but I'm not a wizard. Thanks.
30/06/12 at 05:15:59 #8
Curt C.
Balloteli was a dominant and intimidating player against Italy. He gave Italy the temperament that players like Ozil lack.

It is always easy to analyze a game after is over. The fair and true analysis for anyone should be done before the game like coaches have to do. The winning side is always right. History is written by the winners. The losers are always wrong. Germany does not have to change anything,only players who, no matter how, finish. Portugal needs the same. Spain will win if any player on the team can finish. We have seen Spain lacking and excelling at finishing and we have seen Italy doing the same. The champion could be either one. This is a very simple analysis but obviously true.


Hello, I was always trying to explain that. To manage a team and to decide before the games and during the games is the key question. After, as you say, we can analyse things and we will be right (there are too many possible analysis).
Both teams can win, I like Italy, but Sain has so much quality. Thanks.
30/06/12 at 14:25:58 #9
Hi Rafa, I was a little surprised by the tactics of Germany in the semi final. We are well aware of the quality of Italy's midfield and Pirlo in particular. Should Joachim have matched their 3 in midfield and gone man to man? How would you have set up tactically, against The Azzurri?


Hello Adam, I think you have to attack Italy through the wide areas and to stop them in the middle. Thanks.
30/06/12 at 18:22:06 #10
One thing is for sure,Italians won't agree about pouring water on the pitch,because they know that wet grass will allow Spaniards to play their style,so it will be similar like it was in the first game,hard to move ball,change sides.Azuri have that right and they will use it I think. La furia roja should play patiently,they are little fresher I think,more choices of worldclass players,maybe VDB at one stage of the game should decide to take off either Sergio or Xabi and put Nando or Mata to kill the game,but that depend on current resault.Balo and Antonio both can hold the ball well and also run in space so it will be real test again for Ramos and Pique.Maybe powerful Llorente was saved for this occasion,he can be match winner from the bench as well as Di Natale on other side.Maybe ''naturalised'' Motta can be the key for Azuri like it was the case with Senna few years ago. I can't wait,real final is going to be,two best sides so far,we will enjoy.