|photo by Ed Yourdon||via PhotoRee|
So, Germany had never beaten Italy, but as this column right here clearly told you, and in language that would be familiar to any student of economic bubbles worldwide, this time things were going to be different. Sure, Germany had never -- not once -- beaten Italy in a major football tournament, but we all saw the raw power, the sheer athletic might of this current squad from Deutschland. You couldn't help but notice it and be suitably impressed. And who were these Italians that faced them, other than a less than potent version of their predecessors, a team without an effective striker, that had a tough time finding the net, a group that had won only one of its tournament games to date in 90 minutes, and only two years removed from the bunch that failed to qualify for the knockout round of the most recent World Cup...? So this game had no chance of even being close, did it?
Unless a certain Andrea Pirlo -- a 33 year old, six years removed from being the most valuable player at the 2006 World Cup, who has undoubtedly been the player of this year's Euro tournament -- is there to block a ball off the line in the game's first seven minutes, a ball that has already evaded a haplessly waving Gianluigi Buffon, that is headed into the back of the net to provide an early German lead and begin the rout.
Unless Italian striker Mario Balotelli could lose his marker and capitalize on a pinpoint accurate Antonio Cassano cross, nodding it past German 'keeper Manuel Neuer to give Italy a surprise 1-nil lead halfway through the first 45 minutes, a lead that would represent the inaugural German deficit of the entire Euro qualifying campaign and tournament.
Unless minutes later, Balotelli were to split the German center backs, and take dead aim at the opposition net, rocketing the ball past a shellshocked Neuer and creating a two goal advantage for the Italians, sowing havoc in the German defense and creating serious problems for the Teutonic game plan heading into the interval.
Unless Gigi Buffon were to find a way to rewind the years and stretch every inch of his long, lean body to stop a laser-like Marco Reus free kick from slipping just under the bar and keep the Germans off the board and the shutout intact at the hour mark.
Unless the Italians could make the German midfield look more like England's midfield, negating such big-club superstars as Mezut Ozil, Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger for a full 90 minutes, allowing the men from der Deutschland possession but not penetration, keeping the danger well at bay and looking nothing more than comfortable throughout the entire match.