The thought of a semi-final against Germany would strike fear into the hearts of most teams, not least one that were out on their feet after 120 minutes of relentless running on Sunday, but Italy enjoy a good record against their European neighbours.
The first encounter that comes to mind between these two European heavyweights is the classic 4-3 victory for the Azzurri in the 1970 FIFA World Cup semi-final. "It was always the one I referred to as 'that match'," recalled Cesare Prandelli, who was captivated by the seven-goal thriller in Mexico City, aged 13. "I can remember watching it at home with my Dad and I still regard it as the greatest emotion I have ever felt watching a game."
Prandelli was playing for Juventus by the time the two sides met in 1982, which is my own first memory of a World Cup final. I still remember being bewitched by Marco Tardelli and his reaction to his goal, known in Italy as 'the scream', and which remains my favourite goal celebration.
The most recent classic between these sides was played out in Berlin in the 2006 World Cup semi-final and provided similar jubilant scenes for the Azzurri. With the score goalless after 119 minutes and a penalty shoot-out looming, Fabio Grosso curled Andrea Pirlo's reverse pass beyond Jens Lehmann to set up a momentous 2-0 win; his celebration was a tribute to Tardelli's scream.
Any Azzurri fans concerned that Germany are strong favourites for Thursday's match should bear in mind that they were also expected to win in 1970, 1982 and 2006, yet Italy came up trumps each time. Although Prandelli's charges have had significantly less recovery time than Joachim Löw's side, they are also unbeaten in their last five meetings with their trans-Alpine neighbours.
Not since 1995 has the Tricolore been lowered by Germany, who still have Pirlo to contend with. And as Alessandro Diamanti said the other day, "even a tired Pirlo is still the best player in the world".
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