Germany vs Italy Preview: Two tournament-ready sides meet for a place in Euro 2012 final | inside World Soccer

Thursday sees Germany and Italy go head-to-head in the Euro 2012 semi-finals, with a place in the final and a chance of glory on the line.

Both sides are unbeaten so far in the competition and will look to prolong their stay in Ukraine and Poland as the tournament gets down to the business end (get the latest betting odds on Euro 2012 from http://www.freebets.org.uk).

Germany’s experience and strength across all positions has seen them emerge as one of the favourites for the trophy, with a glamour final against Spain eyed up even before the action began a fortnight ago.

Joachim Low’s team have not disappointed, with swift attacking and no-nonsense defending resulting in four wins from four games.

A tight Group B was expected in most Euro 2012 previews, but the Germans powered their way to top spot with wins over Portugal, Netherlands and Denmark without ever really being put under any concerted periods of pressure.

Low threw a curveball in the quarter-finals against Greece by resting first-choice attacking trio Mario Gomez, Lukas Podolski and Thomas Muller, with Miroslav Klose, Andre Schurrle and Marco Reus able deputies in a 4-2 victory.

Germany go into this one as favourites, with the side looking for their first international triumph since 1996. Bastian Schweinsteiger is carrying an injury but should play, whilst Low has a plethora of options to choose from in attack.

Italy have been a dark horse this time round, with poor tournament preparation set aside once the action actually started.

1-1 draws against world champions Spain and Croatia and a 2-0 win over Republic of Ireland meant the Azzurri finished as Group C runners-up; they dominated their quarter-final against England but couldn’t score in 120 minutes, but prevailed on penalties.

Cesare Prandelli has played around with his tactics but seems to have settled on a makeshift 4-4-2 formation.

Mario Balotelli was wasteful against England and will need to take his chances this time round if the Azzurri are to make the final, whilst Giorgio Chiellini missed the last game but is pushing for inclusion after regaining fitness.

Andrea Pirlo has been the man of the moment for the Italians, and will hope to orchestrate play and create chances for those ahead of him.

Prandelli’s men have had two days less rest than the Germans, and after 120 minutes of action in their last game will need to count on adrenaline and an ardent travelling support to keep them in it.

A number of battles will decide the winner of this game, with a tight match expected.

Pirlo’s battle with Sami Khedira and Schweinsteiger will make for interesting viewing, whilst Podolski and Gomez are likely to be restored to the German team.

If Chiellini plays it will be a major bonus for Italy, who will need to be at their best to blunt a lethal German frontline.

At the other end Antonio Cassano and Balotelli will have to build on the side’s four goals to date in the competition, but will be confronted by determined centre-backs Mats Hummels and Holger Badstuber.

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