Germany and Italy will lock horns in Bordeaux on Saturday night in what looks a mouth-watering encounter.
The Germans have not beaten the Italians in eight attempts at World Cup and European Championships.
In their most recent competitive encounter Mario Balotelli inspired the Azzurri to Euro 2012 semi-final victory and six years earlier late goals from Fabio Grosso and Alessandro Del Piero knocked the Germans out of their own World Cup, also in the semis.
As the reigning world champions, Germany are naturally the favourites but they’ll be wary of the threat Antonio Conte’s side possess.
Euro 2016 Quarter-Final | Stade de Bordeaux | Saturday 2 July | 21:00
Germany 11/10 | Draw 2/1 | Italy 28/10
Germany have been all right in Euro 2016 but they haven't been tested by a top quality side until now. Joachim Low's side beat Ukraine, 2-0, in their opener but failed to break through Poland’s defence and had to settle for a goalless draw. An uninspiring 1-0 victory over Northern Ireland left some observers doubting their bid for a record fourth European Championship crown.
But Germany produced their best display so far at Euro 2016 as they eased into the quarter-finals with a thumping 3-0 win over Slovakia in Lille. Low's side were on top throughout against the Slovaks and coasted through with goals from Jerome Boateng, Mario Gomez and Julian Draxler. They could even afford a Mesut Ozil failure from the penalty spot.
It was a real statement from Low's side that they're coming to the boil at just the right time. From the moment the game kicked off, Slovakia were never in it. That bodes well for Germany, ahead of a tough challenge against Italy in Bordeaux. When at their best, nobody can match their combination of individual quality and teamwork.
Toni Kroos has been pulling the strings for Germany and Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze and Gomes have been the key men up front. Germany look very solid defensively and are yet to concede a goal, while any chances they do allow are met with the formidable obstacle of Manuel Neuer.
Italy, beaten 4-0 by the Spanish in the final four years ago, produced a fine performance to set up a quarter-final tie with world champions Germany. Giorgio Chiellini's 33rd-minute goal gave Italy the lead, and Graziano Pelle smashed home a second in stoppage time to seal the win.
It was arguably the performance of the tournament so far, as they tactically outclassed Spain in a match that could well have been 5-0 had it not been for goalkeeper David de Gea. They were that good, and Antonio Conte looks that exceptional as a manager.
For eight years, Spain has enjoyed their role as champions of Europe but they had no answer to an Italian team set up brilliantly by Conte. The incoming Chelsea boss lived every kick and rode every high, and every low, with his bench, and Italian supporters. His veteran defenders, with the irrepressible Gianluigi Buffon behind them, were the rock of his 3-5-2 formation – but that was just the start.
From the kick-off, a rampant Italian outfit gave Spain’s ball players no time on the ball and showed them little respect. They pushed up the pitch to fluster usual fulcrum Sergio Busquets. They played with a dedication to width – primarily via Alessandro Florenzi and Mattia De Sciglio – to ensure the pitch was as stretched as possible when they had the ball.
Italy are rock-solid defensively with Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Buffon in goal. Germany will have to come up with something special if this error-free back-line is to be tested. The Azzurri have also looked deadly on the counter with Pelle and Eder prolific in front of goal.
Germany are the team to beat but Conte has the Midas touch. This Italy team may not have as many star names as Germany but they are stronger defensively and tactically, and have a great coach. A tight affair is expected, but Italy are tipped to qualify at 14/10.