Germany end Italy hoodoo to reach Euro 2016 semi-finals

At long last Germany defeated Italy in the finals of a major tournament as a 6-5 penalty shoot-out victory carried the World Cup winners into the semi-finals of Euro 2016 after a 1-1 draw on Saturday.

Jonas Hector scored the decisive penalty after keeper Manuel Neuer saved from Matteo Darmian, on Italy's ninth kick, in Bordeaux. Earlier Mesut Oezil had opened the scoring for Germany in the 65th minute only for Leonardo Bonucci to level with a penalty in 78 after a needless handball from Jerome Boateng.

Italy were previously undefeated in eight World Cup or Euro finals meetings with Germany.

Germany now await France or Iceland in the semi-finals in Marseille on Thursday as they seek a first Euro crown since 1996. Wales meet Portugal in the other semi.

"Of course it was a dramatic game to the very last shot," Germany coach Joachim Loew said. "It was a game on a very high tactical level from both sides.

"I think we were superior on the pitch. The penalty was a little unfortunate, I couldn't imagine the Italians would score in the game."

Both sides made alterations to their starting eleven from the previous round but while Italy coach Antonio Conte was forced to bring Stefano Sturaro into the midfield with Daniele De Rossi injured and Thiago Motta suspended, Loew elected to gamble.

He abandoned the back four which had not conceded a goal in the tournament to introduce Benedikt Hoewedes as an extra central defender alongside Boateng and Mats Hummels, at the cost of the creative Julian Draxler in midfield.

"I think Germany had huge respect for Italy," Conte said. "The fact the world champions changed their formation to play us showed they at least had significant respect for us. It was a tough match from every perspective.

"Ultimately the disappointment in the dressing room was huge. We really chased this dream."

When Germany thrashed Italy 4-1 in a pre-Euros friendly back in March, it was with a 3-5-2 system but this time the plan fell flat.

With 16 of 20 outfield players effectively occupying central positions, space was almost non-existent and first-half chances at a premium. Germany's crosses were from poor positions and they lacked the spark to break down the Italy defence.

Bastian Schweinsteiger, on for Sami Khedira who strained an adductor in 15 minutes, had a header disallowed for blatant foul and Germany's first legitimate attempt on target came from Mario Gomez's 41st minute header.

Seconds later Thomas Mueller mishit a shot at Gianluigi Buffon and Italy then enjoyed their best moment of the half. Emanuele Giaccherini got behind the defence only to have his cross tipped away by Manuel Neuer and Sturaro's follow-up deflected inches wide.

After the break Germany played with greater intensity and Mueller had a shot spectacularly flicked clear by Alessandro Florenzi, though it was likely going wide anyway.

But the pressure paid off thanks to inspired work from Gomez, who collected a long kick from Neuer at the touchline before releasing Jonas Hector. The resulting cross was deflected perfectly into the path of Oezil who poked home from seven yards.

Italy were on the ropes and Buffon kept his side alive with a superb reaction to prevent an own goal from Giorgio Chiellini as he tackled Gomez.

Gomez was removed for Draxler and Italy slowly came back into the game. Boateng handed them a path back into the tie by leaping with his arms in the air to meet a cross and referee Viktor Kassai had no choice but to point to the spot.

Bonucci converted calmly into the bottom right corner despite Neuer going the right way.

"It was unbelievable on the pitch," said Germany defender Mats Hummels, who will miss the semi-final through suspension. "After the 1-0 we thought we could have won, we had the chance for 2-0 ... but for a short amount of time we lost our security."

Pelle had an effort deflected wide and with few further chances the contest went to extra-time.

Draxler hooked over from almost on the line at the start of the second additional period and then over-hit his pass when he should have sent Mueller clear but the tie was to be decided from the spot.

A sensational shoot-out followed in which Lorenzo Insigne, Andrea Barzagli, Giaccherini, Parolo and Mattia De Sciglio found the net for Italy while Simone Zaza, Pelle, Bonucci and Darmian missed.

After Toni Kroos and Draxler had scored, Schweinsteiger could have won it but skewed Germany's fifth kick far off target, following in the footsteps of Mueller and Oezil who also missed.

However, Hummels, Joshua Kimmich, Boateng and finally Hector held their nerve to seal the win.

Last update: Fri, 08/07/2016 - 18:56

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