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|Germany 1-2 Italy: Five Observations|
SoccerAnchor's Kieran Francis picked five things he noticed during Italy's 2-1 win over Germany. It was an absorbing tactical battle with Italian manager Cesere Prandelli winning out...
German system change
German coach Joachim Low had obviously thought deeply about the influence of Italian maestro Andrea Pirlo when he considered his starting eleven. Pirlo had been at the heart of Italy's midfield engine and the Low was keen to ensure Pirlo's impact was restricted.
To curb Pirlo's influence, Low started Bayern midfielder Toni Kroos in a central position and pushed normally central based playmaker Mesut Ozil out to the right of the midfield. The idea was that Kroos could mark Pirlo when the German's lost possession.
While Kroos did not do as a poor a job as Wayne Rooney did marking Pirlo, the Italian veteran still had considerable impact on the game. Pirlo's long diagonal ball started the attack for Mario Balotelli's first goal and Kroos' introduction and role in the German system unsettled their normal fluent movement.
The opening goal, a quality header from Balotelli after Cassano's brilliant wide play, came about because of the German's being unsettled in their system.
With Kroos taking up a central position (marking Pirlo) and Ozil being pushed out wide, the Real Madrid playmaker still was keen to drift in centrally on his left foot. This allowed the normally placid full-back Giorgio Chiellini a significant amount of space to move forward into if he so wished.
With the goal, Chiellini found space on the attacking left flank and when joined by Cassano, both Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels were moved from their defensive line to combat the Italian duo. Once Cassano beat Hummels, then all Balotelli had to do was get the better of Holger Badsturber and head the cross home.
Italians high, Germans deep
Because of the dynamics of both teams sets of strikers, the Italians kept a high defensive line while the Germans kept a deeper than usual line.
The theory behind Italy's high defensive line was that Mario Gomez was not quick enough to exploit the space in behind. Ozil, being a playmaker, is also not the type of the player to make runs off the shoulder of the last defender. Arsenal signing Lukas Podolski is capable of exploiting that space but had to contend with Federico Balzaretti sitting deeper and his poor tournament form to date.
The German deep defensive line was presumably instilled because that Low was worried about Balotelli and Cassano exploiting space behind his defence. With players of the quality of Purlo and Montolivo being able to hit quality long range passes, Low was clearly worried about his side pushing too high.
Ironically Balotelli's second goal came from one of the only times in the first half that the Germans kept a high line. A brilliant through ball from Montolivo exploited the space and Balotelli finished with aplomb.
Sometimes brilliant, sometimes poor. Can be a matchwinner or can bring his team down. The enigma that is Mario Balotelli is brilliant to watch. This game however could be his coming of age.
The Manchester City striker put in a stunning performance until he was substituted in the 69th minute. It wasn't just the two goals he scored but the outstanding movement he had in attack.
His first goal was a brilliant finish but was made easier by the quality of Cassano's ball in. The isolation that he had with Badstuber meant that he was in pole position to score and his finish was emphatic.
The second goal had Balotelli gaffe written all over it. Sometimes when given too much time, the Italian hitman would think about the chance too much and squander it. It looked like that was happening as he meandered in toward goal but he struck a shot that was that powerful and emphatic, that no keeper in the world would have been able to stop it. Job done for the a talent that could be one of the world's best. very soon.
Germans too late
With the game almost lost, the Germans went all-out attack to try and get themselves back into the game. This allowed for a extremely entertaining end-to-end finish that saw both sides having golden chances to hit the scoresheet.
On many occasions the Germans got the ball into the danger area but they could not get the slice of the luck they needed to get a back in the latter stages of the second half, until it was too late.
Balzaretti's handball meant that Germans had two minutes to push for an equaliser. You can't help think that maybe if the Germans got a goal early in the second half then they would have steamrolled the Italians.
Prandelli made excellent defensive substitutions bringing on defensive midfielder Thiago Motta for Montolivo and attacking midfielder Alessandro Diamanti on to sit deeper so that they could restrict the German attacks.
It was an excellent tactical performance by Prandelli. Will he stick with Italy's midfield diamond for the final or draft in the 3-5-2 formation that was mildly successful against Spain in their first group game?