Germany are ready to turn on the pressure against Italy in Friday's quarter-final at UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2009™, but the holders also know they risk punishment from a swift counterattack by the Azzurre.
Germany are bidding for a fifth consecutive European title and their demolitions of both France and UEFA WOMEN'S EURO 2005™ finalists Norway in the group stage sent an ominous message to the rest of the tournament. Coach Silvia Neid has made no secret of the fact that she expects her side to bring the hammer down against Pietro Ghedin's side. However, Neid also knows that Italy have proved themselves a particularly resilient opponent at these finals, coming back from a goal down to beat ten-player England 2-1 and soaking up everything Russia had to offer before sealing a late 2-0 victory.
"They beat England and they beat Russia, though they were never the better side in either game," Neid said. "But they scored goals that came almost from nowhere and that's why you should never feel too safe against them, especially because Patrizia Panico and Melania Gabbiadini are incredibly dangerous. Of course, we'll be the team who will press and we expect to have a lot of the possession but they will try to exploit any mistakes on the counterattack. It won't be easy for us."
The task will be helped, though, by the return to fitness of their two key strikers − Birgit Prinz, who sustained an ankle knock in training on Monday, and Inka Grings, who suffered a knee injury as she scored the winner against Iceland a day earlier. Speaking on the eve of the game, assistant coach Ulrike Ballweg said Prinz "still has a slight pain in her ankle but it shouldn't be a problem for tomorrow" and was even more confident about Grings. "She trained on Wednesday at full intensity, so she'll be fine," she said.
Italy coach Pietro Ghedin has no such injury worries, telling uefa.com: "Everybody's fit, I'm spoilt for choice." However, he also knows that Italy need to overcome their often bumpy starts to games at this tournament if they are to have any chance in what many have classed as a mission impossible.
"On paper, it certainly looks that way, but we'll see. .. Up till now, we've been slow starters because we are actually a good side but we don't yet realise it. As the game goes on, though, we start playing better. So far, the first few minutes have almost always been a bit lethal for us – either in terms of conceding goals or being made to suffer," Ghedin said. "But if we can weather that, we should be in with a shout."
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