Something must give in Warsaw on Thursday when Germany meet Italy for a place in the UEFA EURO 2012 final.
With the Azzurri unbeaten in 14 qualifying and final tournament matches under Cesare Prandelli and Germany having won a world record 15 competitive games dating back to the last FIFA World Cup, each side offers a compelling case for making Sunday's Kyiv showpiece.
The Nationalmannschaft's greater clinical edge, certainly when compared with their opponents', could be decisive, however. Joachim Löw's team have registered more goals than any of their fellow semi-finalists, nine, yet have done so from the joint fewest (along with Portugal) attempts on target, 33. With Italy though, the statistics are reversed – 50 on-target efforts have brought just four goals.
Each nation's respective quarter-final provided a case in point. While the Azzurri struggled to finish off England despite fashioning a plethora of openings, Germany recovered from the shock of conceding an equaliser to Greece by scoring three times in 13 minutes – this having rotated their entire front three.
In Andrea Pirlo, though, Prandelli has one of the championship's classiest performers. The Juventus midfielder controlled the tempo from the outset against England in Kyiv, completing a EURO record 117 passes. That over one third of them were in extra time, when the 33-year-old might have been expected to succumb to fatigue, gives a sound indication of the 2006 World Cup winner's energy levels.
The deep-lying playmaker's duel with Mesut Özil – ten years his junior and the purveyor of as many assists, three, as the whole of the Italy squad at these finals – could be key in determining the outcome of the sides' third meeting in UEFA European Championship history.
Complementing Pirlo's guile has been the graft of Claudio Marchisio. Deployed in a more advanced midfield position than his club-mate, Marchisio, on average, covered 11.177km per game in the group stage, far in excess of the 10.649km mean figure.
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