The Germany-Italy rivalry is known to every World Cup follower. Even the German football pundits admit that the Italians have a psychological edge over this tough opponent. The Italians have an uncanny style that makes them look like illusionists and makes it hard for the Germans to find a crack to enter, many experts believe.
There are always certain teams whose duels create an adrenaline rush among the spectators. One such duo is Germany-Italy. These contenders have met each other five times in the World Cup and each time Azzuri has outdone the Germans.
History has a major part to play
Whenever Italy has locked horns with Germany, the latter has felt more pressure. It is because the historical records refuse to sweep off the minds of the Germans. They have had some of the most dramatic meetings in the past. The most dramatic has been the semi-final of 1970 that earned it the title “Game of the Century”. Italy won it in extra time by 4-3. The game is remembered a lot and a plaque has been placed at the entrance of the Estadio Azteca.
All such incidents are quite likely to create a mental block in the minds of the Germans. The things are, however, changing slowly, as Germany had some great moments in UEFA Euro 2016.
Ability to counter the style of the Germans
Germany boss Joachim Low once said before a friendly match with Italy that the latter team can adjust their game like a pro. It makes them more illusionists, which means, Germans find it really hard to predict the moves and design a game plan when playing against Italy.
In all the head-to-head meetings held in the years 1970, 1982 and 2006, the Italians played as if the other side had to get into an invincible fortress. While the Germans went aggressive and more attacking in their approach, Italy put their best defensive game forward. Their unmatched command on Catenaccio has led Germans to think them to be a hard to crack team.
Apart from the ability to counter the attack of Germans, a number of things happen that pile on and set the mood at the turf. Mostly, Germans are seen trying to overcome their self-doubt and gain a foothold, but only to be crashed further by the Italian opponents.
A psychological impact – too obvious to deny
Apart from the tactful game plan, Italy manages to get the Germans thinking that they are invincible. Their passionate crooning of the Italian National Anthem at the start of a final game against Germans, for example, did create an intimidating tone from the very start, as per the words of Felix Magath.
News, interviews with the media and the developments off the field collectively work in the favor of Italians pushing the German opponents to a state of self-doubt. They are seen making the silliest of mistakes against Italians, and sometimes, physical encounters have also marked the course of the games.
Record of their head-to-head games indicates this trend
Italy and Germany both are two major football forces from Europe. They have comparable numbers of the World Cup titles to their credit. Hence, when they meet each other on the turf, it is the clash of two European titans. In all those games where one of them plays the host, they have managed to cash the home-field advantage and scored a win.
Mostly, it is seen that Germans have a very aggressive stance. And they have managed to be ahead of Italians in Euro Cups. Thus, the World Cup comes as a chance for the Italians to settle the score and they fight tooth and nail, and with a better motivation level to give the Germans a tough fight. It is the motivation level also responsible for the Germans struggling to win against Italy in most of the World Cup meetings.
Low scoring matches mostly
In most of the 10 memorable meetings between the German and Italian sides in the World Cup, the matches either ended in a draw or saw the Italians taking the lead. The goal difference has never been more than two. It indicates the kind of determination to prove supremacy with which these sides enter the field.
But, the Italians take on the Germans psychologically and mostly return the goals as soon as they take them from the latter. The game technique, possession time, counter-defense, there is hardly anything that Italians hesitate from trying. In essence, the Azzuri do their truest best to keep Germans in control.
Germans tend to make way for the young blood sooner. It leaves the team falling short in inexperience. The Italians stick to experienced players for a longer time and that helps them show more character during testing times like playoffs or penalty shootouts.
The coach’s competence has made a lot of difference for Italians. The underrated players have been groomed to become the football geniuses under the able guidance of the coaches. Such capability is yet to be seen capitalized on by the Germans. They do have a lot of potentials to tap, a reality!
There is a need for Germans to improve on their corners and free kicks. These improvements can help them make the best of the set pieces that lie unutilized mostly on the German side. It is the loophole, probably, that Italians recognize and use to break their German counterparts.
Things are changing, however!
Germany’s squad has improved a lot. Also, the European tournaments of 2016 have been the turning point for Germans. They have managed to but much braver front as compared to the past. Also, the records of the German team are making things better for their fans.
In most of the head-to-head meets, Germans are seen struggling against Italy in the World Cup. The technique, attitude, and determination are the departments where Italians have mostly scored higher than their German opponents. It is the psychological block created from historical records that shows the impact on the performance of the German side. But, will it be the same scene in the upcoming World Cup at Qatar? It is a question almost every football fan is asking.