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Germany-Italy talking points

Sky Sports logo Sky Sports 03-07-2016 skysports.com

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Germany are into the Euro 2016 semi-finals after beating Italy 6-5 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in Bordeaux on Saturday night. 

The two sides couldn't be separated after Leonardo Bonucci's penalty had cancelled out Mesut Ozil's opening goal in normal time, and the match headed for a shootout after an uneventful period of extra-time.

Eighteen penalties were taken, with glaring misses on both sides, but Germany defender Jonas Hector eventually scored the decisive kick after Manuel Neuer had saved from Matteo Darmian.

From Germany's Italian hoodoo to Antonio Conte's enhanced reputation, we reflect on the big talking points from Bordeaux.

Germany end their Italian hoodoo

Germany went into the game having failed to beat their bogey team in eight meetings at major tournaments. The dismal run dated back to a goalless draw at the 1962 World Cup, with the most recent disappointment coming with a 2-1 defeat in the Euro 2012 semi-final.

They are still waiting for a victory in normal time, of course, but that technicality counts for little now. Germany might have buckled after the psychological blow of Bonucci's equalising goal, but they held their nerve in a rollercoaster of a penalty shoot-out. Joachim Low insisted Germany have "no Italy trauma" before the game. This was the proof.  

Why is Ozil taking penalties?

His instinctive finish for Germany's opening goal was impressive, but the sight of Ozil striding up to take Germany's second penalty in the shoot-out was still surprising. And while his self-belief is admirable, Die Mannschaft might have to think about taking him off spot-kick duties.

The Arsenal playmaker had his tame penalty saved by Slovakia goalkeeper Matus Kozacik in the last-16, and his effort in Bordeaux bounced harmlessly off the outside of Buffon's post. Fortunately for Germany neither miss was punished, but Ozil has now missed four of his last five penalties for club and country. It's time to hand that responsibility to someone else.

Neuer comes out on top in battle of No 1s

Buffon was full of praise for his opposite number in Italy's pre-match press conference, saying Germany's No 1 might be the better goalkeeper. And while Neuer has a long way to go to match the veteran Italian's trophy haul, he certainly came out on top at the Stade de Bordeaux.

Neuer was beaten from the spot by Bonucci in normal time, but he produced a stunning one-handed save from the centre-back in the shoot-out. His subsequent stop from Matteo Darmian proved decisive, with Buffon unable to prevent Jonas Hector's weak effort from squirming under his body for the winner. While Neuer led Germany's wild celebrations, Buffon left the field in tears.

Was it boring or brilliant?

End-to-end excitement was at a premium over the course of the 120 minutes as Joachim Low abandoned Germany's usual 4-2-3-1 formation to mirror Italy's 3-5-2. The unexpected tactical change made for a tight encounter in which the two sides cancelled each other out for long periods.

The chess-like contest divided viewers. Was it a dull affair lacking in inspiration? Or was it an enthralling tactical masterclass? It brought to mind Gary Neville's comments about the Manchester derby in October. As fans complained about the lack of goalmouth action, Neville described the goalless draw as one of the best games he had seen all season.

For while there were only six shots on target before the match went to penalties in Bordeaux, there was also tactical excellence and elite-level defending from two of the finest international sides around.

Conte goes to Chelsea with reputation enhanced

In the end, Conte was beaten by the only part of the game he couldn't control. The incoming Chelsea boss earned deserved plaudits for Italy's performances at Euro 2016. This Azzurri squad lacks the individual talent of previous ones, but they were a formidable foe thanks to Conte's man-management and tactical acumen.

The outstanding victories over Belgium and Spain were a testament to his coaching ability, and they comfortably matched the world champions in Bordeaux. In the end penalties ended Conte's tournament earlier than he would have liked, but he heads to Chelsea with his reputation significantly enhanced.

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