Europe’s titans clash on Saturday when Germany and Italy meet in the plum Euro 2016 quarterfinal with huge stakes for both countries.
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 down played the significance of Italy winning the last eight meetings at major tournaments.
In the most recent matches, Italy claimed a 2-1 win in the Euro 2012 semifinals while Germany romped to a 4-1 win in a meaningless friendly in March.
Joachim Loew’s Germany insists they have no ‘Italy trauma’ as they look to beat the Azzurri at the ninth attempt on a big stage and throw off their Italian shackles.
Antonio Conte’s Italy has compared taking on the world champions as football’s equivalent of ‘climbing Everest’. Italy have their own trauma after crashing out of the 2014 World Cup in the first round.
Both squads insist this will be their toughest test so far at the European Championship finals.
No doubt penalties have been practised behind closed doors, should the tie be decided by a shoot-out.
The Azzurri proved they are up for the challenge by dumping previous holders Spain out of the competition with a 2-0 win in the last 16.
But Conte’s team will have to become the first team to score past the Germans at Euro 2016, unless the tie is settled by penalties.
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 footballing powerhouses, Italy has a rare unbeaten record over Germany at major tournaments.
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