Germany advanced to the semi-finals of Euro 2016 after an enthralling 6-5 penalty shoot-out win over Italy.
In an evenly contested game Joachim Low’s side took the lead midway through the second half, as Mesut Ozil’s scored with a deft near post finish following some excellent build-up play between Mario Gomez and Jonas Hector.
At that stage Germany were in the ascendancy, with Italy struggling to construct any meaningful attacks. Nevertheless the Azzuri did equalise in the 78th minute through Leonardo Bonucci’s calmly converted penalty, which was awarded after Jerome Boateng inexplicably handled the ball.
Penalty shoot-out drama
After neither team could fashion a winning goal in either normal or extra time, despite missing more penalties in one a shoot-out – three – than in their entire history, Germany won on penalties and beat Italy at a major international tournament for the first time.
Prior to Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil and Bastien Schweinsteiger missing against Italy, only two German players had previously failed to score in shoot – outs.
The first of those was Uli Stielike, as West Germany beat France 5-4 on penalties in the semi-finals of the 1982 World Cup. Thereafter in the final of Euro 1976, Uli Hoeness missed his penalty against Czechoslovakia, for whom Antonin Panenka scored the winning spot kick by famously chipping the ball gently beyond German goal-keeper Sepp Maier.
Since losing that particular game against Czechoslovakia 5-3 on penalties, Germany have since won seven consecutive major international tournament penalty shoot-outs. Nevertheless, the composure shown by Panenka in 1976 was lacking in many of the German and Italian players during the shoot-out, but Jonas Hector remained calm to drill home the decisive penalty under the despairing dive of Gianluigi Buffon.
The 38-year-old Italian goalkeeper, who made his 161st appearance for Italy to become the 10th most internationally capped player of all time, performed heroics against Germany to keep alive his side’s hopes of progressing to the semi-finals.
Chance to emulate class of ‘96
However it was Joachim Low’s side who did so, as they took another step towards winning a first European Championship for Germany since Euro 96, which was held in England.
That year, managed by Berti Vogts, Germany beat the hosts 6-5 on penalties in the semi-final, after reaching that stage unbeaten. Andreas Kopke saved Gareth Southgate’s tamely struck spot kick, before Andreas Moller scored the winning penalty to send his team through to the final, where they defeated the Czech Republic 2-1 courtesy of Olivier Bierhoff’s golden goal.
Similar to the manner in which Vogts’ team performed consistently well throughout Euro 96 to deservedly win the tournament, the current German side are playing with a great deal of confidence and guile in France. As such, should Die Mannschaft continue to do so, they have an excellent chance to emulate their predecessors of 20 years ago and win Euro 2016