Last updated at 19:45, Thursday 28th June 2012

Azzurri can close ranks


Mike Holden
Euro 2012 - Germany v Italy
2pts Germany v Italy half-time draw at 11/10No fewer than 13 of the past 16 major tournament semi-finals have landed this bet.1.5pts Germany v Italy draw after 90 mins at 12/5Italians have drawn eight of last nine knockout matches against major nations, so price is big.0.5pt Italy to beat Germany on penalties at 11/1Not what we want, but it's a cheap and necessary way to cover our outright stake on Germany.

How much stock should we place in history when weighing up the respective semi-final credentials of Europe's two traditional heavyweights?

If you base your assessment on almost any other criteria, then the obvious conclusion would be to predict a fairly routine Germany win in normal time. Maybe one by the finest of margins, but an outcome that would seem rather predictable all the same. But once you allow history to seep into the equation, it becomes an altogether different story.

For starters, there's Italy's 24-year sequence without defeat over 90 minutes in the knockout stages of a major tournament. Then there's the knockout victories over Germany in 1970, 1982 and 2006. No other nation in the world forces a sense of inferiority complex on Germany like Italy.

Back Germany v Italy draw after 90 mins at 12/5
The Azzurri have certainly been refreshing at Euro 2012, but they've hardly looked formidable and you suspect they will have to step-up their efforts considerably in order to win this game. In four previous outings, they have mustered just one victory - and that against a Republic of Ireland side already eliminated.

However, that's not to say they cannot pose a significant obstacle to Germany's chances of progression and we see some value in backing the draw over 90 minutes at 12/5. It's an outcome the Italians have landed in eight of their previous nine tournament knockout matches against traditional heavyweights.

We won't attempt to draw too many comparisons between this Italian team and previous incarnations, because they're evidently different in style. Save to say, we suspect an irrepressible survival instinct remains central to their mentality and Cesare Prandelli's men will be fairly happy to reverse the roles from their goalless quarter-final with England and take the reactive route as opposed to proactive.

Back Italy to win on penalties at 11/1
The Nationalmannschaft will obviously be out to avenge their World Cup semi-final defeat in Dortmund six years ago and though we appreciate they're much better placed to put the Azzurri to the sword now compared with back then, the memory of that game does send a shiver down the spine when we think of our lumpy outright bet on Jogi Low's men.

It must be said that the Italians have looked after the ball rather well at this tournament and, in Andrea Pirlo, they have a player who can control the tempo to such a level that this game could go the distance. As such, we're happy to take out a small saver on Italy to win on penalties at 11/1.

Finally, it's a point we've made already in our preview of the first semi-final, but we must reiterate the historical trend for these matches being all-square at the interval. No fewer than 13 of the last 16 major tournament semi-finals have been a draw at half-time, so we make no bones about pursuing that avenue at odds-against once again.

Back Germany v Italy half-time draw at 11/10

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