Italy (+300) vs Germany (+125), Draw (+200)
A game worthy of being the 2016 Euro finals will instead take place in the quarters as Italy (3-1-0) meet Germany (3-0-1) in Bordeaux this Saturday (3:00 PM Eastern).
It’s easy to understand why there’s a widely-held belief that the winner of this tournament will come out of this match. These are perhaps the two best defensive teams in the world right now; the Germans have yet to concede a goal this tournament, and boast the highest possession numbers, holding the ball 64-percent of the time.
Italy has been stout as well, surrendering their only goal against Ireland in a meaningless game that all-world goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon watched from the sidelines.
Given both these teams’ style of play, Saturday’s game has all the makings of a first-goal-wins affair. The Italians ran this strategy to perfection against Spain in the Round of 16, pushing hard for a goal early (which they got in the 33rd minute from Giorgio Chiellini) then committing everyone to the back end.
Italy added a late goal on the counter-attack for a 2-0 victory, getting revenge for Spain’s victory in the 2012 Euro Finals.
Germany have driven a far smoother road to this point, beating the likes of Northern Ireland (1-0) and Ukraine (2-0) in the Group Stage and then routing Slovakia (3-0) in the Round of 16. Statistically, they’ve been very impressive, but don’t immediately crown them the champs. The toughest team they faced so far is Poland, who held them to a nil-nil draw.
Despite their easy start to this tournament, German manager Joachim Low made an important adjustment to his starting lineup. After the draw with Poland, Low slotted Mario Gomez in at striker over a disappointing Mario Gotze. Gomez rewarded his manager with goals in two straight matches and now Germany’s offense is peaking at the right time (see the 3-0 defeat of Slovakia).
Surprisingly, this rivalry has been historically one-sided. While the Germans have held their own in friendlies – including winning the latest match (4-1) in March – they’ve never beaten Italy at the Euro or the World Cup. Combined, the Azzuri are 4-0-4 against the Nationalelf, including a 2-1 victory in the semis of the 2012 Euros.
But, as Italy has already shown this tournament, revenge is a powerful motivator. While Germany’s statistics are a tad inflated, they have more than double the shot attempts as Italy (19.5 to 8.75 per game). I like the Germans to emerge victorious from a low-scoring game in 90 minutes.
Pick: Germany (+125).
(Photo credit: Steindy (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)