Germany-Italy settled by the oddest of shoot-outs

Germany's victory over Italy in the Euro 2016 quarter-finals on Saturday - the first time they have beaten the Azzurri in tournament football - will be remembered fondly in Germany for the result's significance rather than for the game itself.

After a match high in tension but low on quality, what will live in the memory of everyone else who watched it is the curate's egg of a penalty shoot-out that settled it.

The strange behaviour of the Italian players, coupled with the fact that none of the elder statesmen in the German side seemed able to take a penalty, provoked a strong reaction among viewers of all persuasions.

Where to begin? With Graziano Pelle indicating to Manuel Neuer that he was going to attempt a Panenka-style chip before dragging his penalty feebly wide?

With Simone Zaza being brought on by Antonio Conte specifically to take a penalty only to blaze wildly over after performing a baffling and hilarious dressage-style routine in his run-up?

With the fact that every single English-based player that took a penalty missed, suggesting they've assimilated a little too well to their adopted country's customs?

Zaza's penalty is already the subject of a thousand Internet memes, while Mesut Oezil's miss for Germany prompted criticism from Bavarian finance minister Markus Soeder, whose tweet saying Oezil should be banned from penalties in future caused a furious backlash online.

"No more penalties for Oezil," he wrote. "Future penalties by young players only."

If Soeder was referring to the fact that some of Germany's most experienced players missed while the younger players held their nerve - Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Mueller also missed while Julian Draxler and Joshua Kimmich, both under 23, scored - it was perhaps unfortunate that he chose to single out a player with an immigrant background to do so.

Soeder later deleted the tweet and clarified that he hadn't meant to single out Oezil, but many users were reluctant to accept his apologies.

Some posted screenshots of the deleted tweet with comments such as "the web never forgets" and "transparency and all that".

The shoot-out was also noteworthy in that it contained 18 penalties, equalling the highest-ever number set at a Euro when Czechoslovakia beat Italy in the third-place play-off at the 1980 European Championships.

If Soeder's ham-fisted comments were as ill-judged as Zaza's penalty, German chancellor Angela Merkel's reaction was more Jerome Boateng: precise and well-judged.

"What a game! Congratulations to the Germany team on reaching the semi-finals," she wrote on her Facebook account on Sunday morning. "I'm delighted with the win over Italy. Now we keep our fingers crossed!"

Merkel's comments were a reminder that, amid all the bizarre events of this shoot-out, there was one inevitable mundanity: Germany won.

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