Germany finally broke their Italian hoodoo at major tournament finals by beating the Azzurri 6-5 in a penalty shoot-out to reach the semi-finals of Euro 2016.
In a rather dull encounter in Bordeaux, apart from the dramatic penalty shoot-out, the World Champions needed 65 minutes to break the deadlock courtesy of Mesut Ozil.
Italy were back on level terms when Leonardo Bonucci scored from the penalty spot.
Regulation and extra time ended 1-1 leaving penalties to decide the winner.
After a marathon shoot-out Jonas Hector hit the winning spot kick to fire Germany to their seventh consecutive last four of a major tournament, where this time they’‘ll face either France or Iceland.
It was Germany’s first win over Italy in nine major tournament matches.
A first half to forget
The first half of the game was sluggish and bereft of any serious threat, not to mention excitement for the neutrals.
The only action worthy of note came in the 14th minute when Sami Khedira signaled to the bench that he could no longer carry on after suffering a groin injury.
Bastien Schweinsteiger came on in his place and in doing so equaled Miroslav Klose’s all-time record of featuring in 37 matches at a World Cup and European Championship finals.
Joachim Loew’s Germany had the lion’s share of possession in the first half, but were unable to capitalize leaving Gigi Buffon with little to do, while Manuel Neuer in the other goal had even less to do as Italy’s attacking force was almost non-existent. Daniele De Rossi’s absence in midfield due to a thigh injury was plain to see.
Schweinsteiger had a goal disallowed on 27 minutes but was called for a clear foul on Mattia De Sciglio.
Half time couldn’t come quick enough.
After a dull start to the second half the tedious deadlock was finally broken on 65 minutes when Mesut Ozil burst into the box to fire past Buffon.
It started on the left flank when Mario Gomez broke down the line before playing a delightful feed to Jonas Hector in the box. Hector then pulled it back to the penalty spot, and after a slight deflection off an Italian defender, it found its way to Ozil who arriving at the near post made no mistake to half volley home from eight yards out.
UEFA EURO 2016 (@UEFAEURO) July 2, 2016
Thirteen minutes later, Italy were back in the game.
Antonio Conte’s men were awarded a penalty when Jerome Boateng was correctly penalized for a hand-ball in the box following an Italian corner.
Defender Leonardo Bonucci stepped up and slotted home a superb spot kick past Neuer to pull the 1968 champions back into the game.
Not bad for his first career penalty, outside of a penalty shoot-out.
bonucci_leo19</a> 🎉🎉🎉<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GER?src=hash">#GER</a> 1-1 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ITA?src=hash">#ITA</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GERITA?src=hash">#GERITA</a> <a href="https://t.co/fdJ5SATpVA">pic.twitter.com/fdJ5SATpVA</a></p>— UEFA EURO 2016 (UEFAEURO) July 2, 2016
It was the first goal conceded by Germany from their five games so far in France – they were the first nation in Euro finals history to keep a clean sheet in each of their first four games.
Despite an improved final ten minutes of play, neither side could find the winner in the regulation 90 minutes and Hungarian referee Viktor Kassai blew his whistle for 30 minutes of extra time.
No further goals were scored in extra time leaving a penalty shoot-out to determine the winners.
Lorenzo Insigne steadied Italy’s nerve firing past Neuer for the opening spot kick, Toni Kroos quickly made it all square.
Second half sub Simone Zaza fired well over the bar to put Germany in the driving seat, but Thomas Müller failed to take advantage and his lame effort was saved by Buffon.
Andrea Barzagli coolly converted his spot kick and when Ozil’s attempt hit the post and went out, Italy were on the verge of qualifying.
Graziano Pellè, however, produced arguably the worst penalty so far and dribbled his effort wide.
Julian Draxler wrong footed Buffon to put Germany level again.
Neuer then guessed right for Leonardo Bonucci’s kick leaving Schweinsteiger to hit the winner but the Manchester United player fired over the bar.
Emanuele Giaccherini fired hard and centre to kick-start sudden death on a positive note for the Italians while Mats Hummels replied in confident fashion.
Marco Parolo and Joshua Kimmich added to their side’s account, Mattia De Sciglio shredded Italian nerves hitting the cross bar before the back of the net as Jerome Boateng once again levelled.
Matteo Darmian’s effort was saved giving the chance for Jonas Hector to score the winning penalty. He made no mistake and beat Buffon to send his nation through to the semis and the German fans into mass celebration.
The prize for the winners is a semi-final against either hosts France or Iceland, who play on Sunday.
UEFA EURO 2016 (@UEFAEURO) July 2, 2016
On Sunday night the quarter-finals stage come to an end.
Hosts France take on competition debutants Iceland, who will be looking to spring another surprise.
France will look to avoid another scare when they face surprise package Iceland in the country’s main stadium, the Stade de France, just north of Paris.
Didier Deschamps’ men had to fight back from one nil down against Ireland to reach the quarters.
For their last eight tie France will be without suspended pair N’Golo Kante and Adil Rami while Kingsley Coman faces a late fitness test following a minor knock.
‘Les Bleus’ will be taking nothing for granted when it comes to rookies Iceland, who created the biggest surprise of the tournament in the last 16 when they humiliated England 2-1 in Nice.
Iceland head to Paris with no injury or suspension concerns.
Iceland captain and Cardiff City midfielder Aron Gunnarsson, whose long throw ins caused England all sorts of problems, returning to training on Friday following a minor back issue.
In order to make the semis Iceland will have to halt their losing tradition against the French – They have not won any of their previous 11 encounters (D3 L8).