In the first semifinal of UEFA Euro 2012 yesterday, a 0-0 draw for 120 minutes between Portugal and Spain turned into heartbreak for Cristiano Ronaldo as his side fell 4-2 in penalties and the Real Madrid star did not get to take a kick of his own to factor into the result. Though the final scoreline did not match the result we shared here from our UEFA Euro 2012 playthrough at STAT BOX STORIES, the victorious side was correct. Can today’s STAT BOX STORIES match-up for the second semifinal follow suit?
Today, Germany and Italy clash for the second spot on the July 1st final at Kiev, Ukraine. The National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland will be the stage for a showdown between a tournament favorite and a squad who entered the Euro 2012 with significant off-field issues.
Germany earned the most points in the Group Stage coming out of Group B, taking victories of 1-0 over Portugal, 2-1 over the Netherlands, and 2-1 over Denmark on their way to the Quarterfinal round. In the knockout stage, Germany earned a decisive 4-2 result over Greece, taking their spot in the Semifinals.
Italy came out of Group C in second place with a tournament opening 1-1 draw against Spain, another 1-1 draw against Croatia, and then a 2-0 victory over Ireland to scrape their way into the Quarterfinals. Italy took on England in a battle leading to a 0-0 draw after 120 minutes of play, and advanced on a penalties victory 4-2 after Ashley Young and Ashley Cole could not convert for the English.
With some French ancestry—and still sore after 6 years about the 2006 FIFA World Cup Final in Germany—I again decided to take control of the higher-rated side rather than take the field as the Italian side. Would I be able to help the German side to victory and get them one step closer to the UEFA Euro 2012 Final? Or would the Italians turn a complete 180° in fortune and leave behind the rough start to their time in Poland and Ukraine? Read on to find out!
It did not take long in this Semifinal match for one side to earn the advantage; in the 13th minute, a Mario Gomez strike was handily saved by Gianluigi Buffon, but a combination of a juicy rebound and poor defending by the Azurri created an easy scoring opportunity for Mesut Özil and a 1-0 lead for the German side.
Despite the early promise of excitement in the match, however, the remainder of the first half produced no marks in the match record. Italy was able to take two wonderful chances from the foot of Mario Balotelli, but each time Manuel Neuer proved up to the task to preserve the German lead and end the half with the same 1-0 scoreline.
With the second half beginning, shots and opportunities continued to favor the leading side but the score remained the same. In the 74th minute, Mario Gomez was replaced by Miroslav Klose at the head of the German formation, and just over ten minutes later that decision was validated as a headed attempt on goal was again stopped by Buffon but the rebound was left too available for the fresh legs of Klose as he tapped it in.
As the advantage doubled, victory seemed a formality for Germany. Just two minutes later, however, poor play in the defensive end allowed Christian Maggio to find the back of the net with a header off a pass from Antonio Cassano, bringing Italy back within a goal with time still remaining on the clock.
Spurred on by the surprising strike, Italy managed to keep possession on the German side and very nearly came all the way back as Cassano took a promising pass from Daniele De Rossi in the box. This time, however, Neuer was back up to the task, reaching full extension out to corral the ball and clear it away to secure the victory for Germany as time expired.
Despite the close final score line, shots and shots on target were in clear favor of Germany 13 to 5 and 9 to 4 respectively. Germany dominated possession, forcing Italy to take 5 fouls and a yellow card over the course of the match.
With the one-sided offensive statistics, it wasn’t altogether surprising that Gianluigi Buffon was named Man of the Match—even in defeat—as the Italian keeper kept his side in a game that they were largely outplayed during. With more solid defensive play, neither German goal would have gone in; though some would argue that Buffon shouldn’t have given up such generous rebounds. Özil and Klose each tallied a goal on two shots on target, while Maggio’s lone tally for Italy came on his only shot of the match. Balotelli had promising attempts in the first half, but his inability to capitalize on space in the box prevented Italy from taking a larger stake in the match before the waning moments.
We’re only hours away from the game which will determine the side who will play against Spain in Kiev for the UEFA Euro 2012 Final; can this STAT BOX STORIES playthrough predict the result? Be sure to follow the game this afternoon, and watch STAT BOX STORIES this weekend for a playthrough of the Final as the stage becomes set to crown the European Champion!