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Germany's 40-year penalty record continues and more Euro 2016 thoughts

Plus, Italy’s final-third flaws prove their undoing.

Germany players celebrate after winning the Euro 2016 quarter-final.
Germany players celebrate after winning the Euro 2016 quarter-final.

1. Germany’s extraordinary penalty record continues

GERMANY’S 6-5 VICTORY against Italy on Saturday evening won’t have come as too much surprise to those familiar with the history of penalty shootouts.

It’s been 40 years and 13 days since Germany lost their last shootout — the only time they have been defeated in these circumstances — in the final of Euro ’76 against Czechoslovakia, when Antonín Panenka scored probably the most famous spot kick of all time to win the match.

Since then, the Germans have been seemingly unbeatable at spot kicks, winning all four of their World Cup shootouts.

The climax against Italy on Saturday evening, however, was far from plain sailing, as the Azzurri passed up attempts to triumph before the Germans eventually prevailed after a scarcely believable 18 spot kicks.

Moreover, one stat in particular shows how uncharacteristically unreliable Germany have been in France — they have missed more penalties, four, than in the previous 40 years of major tournaments combined (three – Uli Hoeness, Uli Stieleke and Lukas Podolski).

2. Italy’s final-third flaws prove their undoing

Soccer Euro 2016 Germany Italy Italy players react after losing the penalty shootout. Source: Thanassis Stavrakis

Even though they ultimately lost tonight, Italy — and in particular their phenomenal backline — can leave France with their heads held high.

Antonio Conte’s side have performed well above expectations at this tournament, after many had written them off in the build up to the summer.

Few sides have been as meticulously organised and tactically adept as the Italians, while with their backline of Gianluigi Buffon, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli, they boast a defence and goalkeeper that must be the envy of every other side in the competition.

Time and again, these defenders, as well as the tireless midfielders ahead of them, got their bodies in the way of shots and consistently frustrated a talented German attack.

Ultimately, it was down the other end where Italy fell short, as less acclaimed players such as Emanuele Giaccherini, Graziano Pellè and Éder lacked the sufficient quality to truly trouble their opponents.

It is a testament of Conte’s coaching that the side have managed to get this far despite an ordinary enough frontline, and the managerial prowess he has demonstrated in recent weeks bodes well for Chelsea, with the 46-year-old ex-Juventus player set to take the reigns at Stamford Bridge imminently following a seven-day post-Euros break.

3. Are the Germans now the favourites at Euro 2016?

Many people predicted that the winner of Saturday night’s box-office clash would go all the way in the Euros.

Yet some experts may now be revising their initial predictions on the basis of what unfolded in Bordeaux, after the world champions just about survived after a grueling 120 minutes of football that may well still be felt going into Thursday’s semi-final.

Though they ultimately got over the line, Germany’s flaws were evident against a limited enough Italian team.

Joachim Löw’s men lack leadership according to former star Michael Ballack, and they certainly stumbled over the line in unconvincing fashion against the Azzurri.

Although they dominated possession and territory against a technically inferior Italian side, their attacks too often lacked the kind of conviction and invention they frequently showed at the World Cup two years ago.

There remains a lingering feeling that the current team are markedly worse than their 2014 counterparts. The influential likes of Philipp Lahm, Miroslav Klose and Per Mertesacker have departed the scene, while some of those remaining, such as Bastian Schweinsteiger, seem past their best. Furthermore, the current side clearly lacks a top-class out-and-out striker among other deficiencies.

That said, with Wales, Portugal, France and Iceland the only other teams left in the competition, for all their flaws, only the hosts come close to matching Germany’s level of talent on paper.

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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