The way this draw has opened up has left the majority of the traditional great footballing powers on one side. The logical extension is that whoever progresses to the semifinal and final from this side will be odds-on to win the whole thing.That creates tension, and its ugly manifestation—the desire to not lose.
And when certain members of both defenses did slip up—once each in the first first—technique failed, in the case of Thomas Muller, or the last line of said defense held firm, as when Jerome Boateng blocked Stefano Sturaro’s shot.
Antonio Conte will be fun in the Premier League
Because as dull as the first half was at times—and it was dull—every instance of dullness served to enliven the future Chelsea manager a little more.
Germany players celebrate winning the penalty shootout in their 6-5 victory over Italy in the Euro 2016 matchup.
Conte is not a man to hide his emotions; like his Chelsea predecessor Jose Mourinho, he is also of the school that likes to defend his players as pure as the driven snow, no matter their obvious on-pitch sins.
Watching him is a game in itself. He fits in nicely to the “cult of the manager” developing in the Premier League, with Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola—almost more charismatic, and entertaining, than the teams they coach.
Sunderland owes Emanuele Giaccherini another look
The diminutive midfielder is on loan from Sunderland at Bologna, and it’s not immediately clear why—especially on the evidence of Saturday evening.
Italy was muffled going forward, but the good things it did in the 90 minutes mostly came through, or involved, Giaccherini.
Technically able, he is also that rare creation—a creative player who will not stop running unless a concrete wall is planted in front of him. He suits Sam Allardyce manager. There is no reason not to recall him to the north east of England.
Mario Gomez and a case of the unexpected
Here was an irony, if you are so inclined to find them. Gomez, often derided as a lump of unrefined rock who is only good for goals, drew a blank in front of goal all night, but proved of greatest worth where he was least expected to.
It was Gomez’s cutesy-pie ball down the left flank that created Mesut Ozil’s opening goal for Germany—a reminder that players typecast as bludgeons still have the potential to surprise with their finesse.
And then, irony on irony, the silky Julian Draxler came on for Gomez and, in extra time, missed the kind of close-range chance that the usual version of Gomez would gobble. Such is football’s odd logic.
UEFA must give its rules a tweak
Asking elite footballers to go almost an entire tournament picking up just one yellow card borders on the farcical. If Italy went through to the semifinals, it was going to be without Graziano Pelle; Germany lacking Mats Hummels.
No one is asking for anarchy on the pitch, but some balance in punishments would not go amiss. After all, at the pointy end of a major tournament, do we not want to see the very best players on the pitch, if at all possible? It isn’t just Germany that loses out in its semifinal—it is neutral spectators, too.