Tactical tinkering falls flat
Joachim Loew’s tactical tinkering fell flat as Italy produced its best performance in Euro 2012 to walk past Germany with relative ease.
In an effort to counter the Azzuri’s narrow diamond midfield, Loew introduced Toni Kroos in a bid to outfox the Italians. The move was an attempt to nullify Italy’s chief playmaker Andrea Pirlo and provide numbers to the midfield, while also allowing Mesut Ozil to operate freely, relieving him of defensive duties.
Kroos began on the right but moved inside and Ozil was seen drifting to the right as Germany failed to hold on to any structural shape in its midfield. The two wing-backs, Jerome Boateng and Philipp Lahm, also failed to provide enough thrust and width to the attack.
The Italian midfield combined effortlessly and Pirlo operated with his usual calm assuredness and Daniel de Rossi and Claudio Marchisio were solid alongside. de Rossi, particularly, was inspired and won almost all skirmishes in the centre circle, foiling Germany’s build-up play. Higher up, Riccardo Montolivo chased around tirelessly and effectively played the role of a spoiler.
Antonio Cassano regularly drifted wide on the left wing (operating on the space left by the over-lapping Boateng) and was instrumental in setting up the first goal after doing well to control Pirlo’s long angular ball from the midfield. Mario Balotelli was sprightly upfront and finished with aplomb on both occasions. Giorgio Chiellini and Federico Balzaretti did well in their unfamiliar left and right-back positions and were generally unadventurous, concentrating more on their defensive duties.
Germany went for broke in the second half, bringing in Mario Gomez, Thomas Muller and Marco Reus, but Italy stayed back with extra defensive support from Thiago Mota (in place of Montolivo) as another substitute Alessandro Diamanti stayed deeper and effectively linked up play.
Germany’s four-pronged attack pressed with right earnest but failed to break open the stout, deep-lying Italian defence, and Antonio di Natale should have extended Italy’s lead from the counterattack as Bastian Schweinsteiger ended up playing as a makeshift right-back in a three-man defence. —
Keywords: Euro 2012