You didn’t have to be an expert cartographer to map out Italy’s path towards success at Euro 2016—suffocating defense and timely goal scoring—so it should come as little surprise that the Azzurri have advanced to the quarterfinals of Euro 2016 on the backs of Giorgio Chiellini, Gianluigi Buffon, Leonardo Bonucci and the rest of the Old Ladies, while goals from the likes of Eder and Graziano Pelle have been enough to push Italy to the brink of the semi-finals.
Speaking of which, all that stands in Antonio Conte’s way are the defending world champions, Ze Germans, a squad Conte described as the most complete in the world. With world class players at every position, it’s hard to argue with Conte’s point there, but does Italy have any chance of stifling Thomas Müller and company Saturday evening?
Well, as Conte himself alluded to, it won’t be easy:
We consider Germany to be absolutely the best opponent in the tournament. We tried over the last few days to study and understand their play, so it will be a very different match to the one against Spain.
We must do well to limit our opponents and also hurt them. It is a quarter-final, so if we want to go forward there has to be an attacking and a defending approach...
We know there are difficulties and we’re prepared to face them. The situation right now is not on level terms, but we worked hard and are not beaten before we even start.
I want to see hunger and the awareness we can overcome obstacles that might seem insurmountable
Hunger, you say? As Roma fans we’re intimately familiar with the hunger, the drive and the passion with which Daniele De Rossi plays, particularly for his homeland. DDR has been able to participate in training ahead of this match, but Conte didn’t offer any insight into his plans for De Rossi, saying simply that his condition is "decent."
One thing is for certain, in light of his play against Spain last week, a healthy De Rossi will go a long way towards stifling Germany’s attack. UPDATE: He's not starting, but should be on the bench.
If Italy can do the unthinkable and tear down the most complete team in the world, a date in the semi-finals awaits, where they’d play the winner of Sunday’s France and Iceland match.
Location: Nouveau Stade Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France
Kick-off time: 21:00 CET, 3:00 PM Eastern, 12:00 PM Pacific
Available TV: ESPN2, ESPN Deportes (United States); TSN3, TSN4, TSN1, RDS, TLN, TSN5 (Canada); BBC One UK (United Kingdom); RAI Uno, Sky Supercalcio HD, RSI La 2, Sky Sport 1 HD Italia (Italy)
Available online streaming: ESPN3/WatchESPN (United States); BBC iPlayer (United Kingdom); SKY Go Italia (Italy)
Take it away, Gigi!