Mesut Özil is a man of few words. What he says never touches on anger, never raises the decibels, never rocks the boat. He speaks of respect for opponents, of gratitude for team-mates. Yet beneath the courteousness lies a steely determination. Germany, he whispers, are here to claim the Henri Delaunay Cup.
"We knew before the tournament that we had a strong team," said the 23-year-old. "We believe in ourselves and the goal is to return to Germany with the title. That's why we are here and I'm convinced we can do it." Not that he is daydreaming about a flight home from Kyiv on 2 July just yet – he remains focused on the present, dismissing talk of a Spain final in favour of a more immediate task: Italy on Thursday.
"We are concentrating on the here and now. We are looking forward to the semi, which will be very difficult. But we are confident we can beat anybody. Italy are surprisingly strong. You could also see that in the very good match they had against world champions Spain. I think they deserve to be in the semi-finals. They are compact, very strong, but in general we look only at ourselves. If we play as we can, I am convinced we will beat Italy."
Andrea Pirlo has been irresistible at times in Poland and Ukraine, and never more so than against England on Sunday. The way in which the veteran dictates the pace and shape of Italy's game has drawn comparisons with Özil, who is an obvious fan of the Azzurri midfielder. "He is a world-class player. The way he converted that penalty characterises him. For years he has been playing at the highest level, but I am not really focusing on [any likenesses with him]. I am looking at team performance and Italy have shown what they are made of."
Germany have been impressive so far, but will Özil have to raise his game to make it five wins from five? "I am pleased with my performances so far, but there is room for improvement. I will show that against Italy." If Germany want to overcome the Azzurri for the first time in eight attempts at a major tournament, Özil will have to make good on that promise.
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