Italian supporters are spoiled for choice when it comes to favourite past matches against Germany, but having failed to beat the Azzurri in eight competitive games, German fans regard Italy as a bogey team.
With both sides looking forward to next summer's finals in Brazil, four-time FIFA World Cup winners Italy take on three-time champions Germany in Milan on Friday: a great opportunity for UEFA.com's Italian team to reflect on four memorable victories, and for our German newsdesk to groan quietly in a corner.
Italy 4-3 West Germany (aet)
17 June 1970, FIFA World Cup semi-final
This meeting at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City famously featured five goals in a sensational 30 minutes of extra time, prompting fans (in Italy at least) to dub it the 'Match of the Century'. Italy took an early lead through Roberto Boninsegna, but Karl-Heinz Schnellinger levelled for Germany at the death despite Franz Beckenbauer playing with his injured arm in a sling.
Extra time was a frenzy: Gerd Müller scored, Tarcisio Burgnich replied, Luigi Riva put Italy in front and Müller responded before Gianni Rivera notched the winner for the Azzurri with nine minutes remaining. "No one has forgotten that match," Müller reflected. "It still drives me crazy thinking about it and I haven't recovered from it to this day." Scant consolation for Germany, but a few days later an exhausted Italy lost the final 4-1 to Brazil.
Italy 3-1 West Germany
11 July 1982, FIFA World Cup final
Exhaustion was to be a factor in the 1982 showpiece, with West Germany's semi-final against France having gone to penalties, leaving them ill prepared for the Santiago Bernabéu decider. ''Our semi-final was a real ordeal,'' recalled goalkeeper Toni Schumacher. ''When we met Italy three days later, we were still exhausted. They had a superb team and we had nothing to throw at them.''
Antonio Cabrini missed a first-half penalty, yet then Paolo Rossi scored his sixth goal of the tournament – all of them coming in the last three games – and Marco Tardelli and Alessandro Altobelli added two more for Enzo Bearzot's side before Paul Breitner's consolation for Germany. Italy's 40-year-old captain Dino Zoff lifted the trophy, but left the partying to his younger team-mates. ''I stayed in my hotel room,'' the keeper said. ''Everybody was asking me to go out and dance and celebrate. Do you really think I could go out and dance at 40?''
Italy 2-0 Germany (aet)
4 July 2006, FIFA World Cup semi-final
While the 1970 and 1982 defeats were painful enough, at least they happened a good way from home. There was no such comfort in 2006 when the teams met in the semi-final in Dortmund. After a goalless 90 minutes, extra time was agonising: Gianluigi Buffon made great saves to deny Bernd Schneider and Lukas Podolski, while Italy hit the woodwork twice through Alberto Gilardino and Gianluca Zambrotta. With penalties looming, Fabio Grosso curled home the opener, heralding an explosive celebration reminiscent of Tardelli's famous scream after his goal in the 1982 final. Alessandro Del Piero added another soon afterwards, and Italy went on to beat France on penalties in the final.
''What a bitter pill to swallow,'' shattered Germany coach Jürgen Klinsmann said later. ''I still feel a shiver running down my spine when I think about that game,'' remembered Grosso years later.
Italy 2-1 Germany
28 June 2012, UEFA EURO 2012 semi-final
Six years on, Italy and Germany faced each other again in another semi-final – no prizes for guessing what happened next. Mario Balotelli was the hero for the Azzurri with two first-half strikes, a header from Antonio Cassano's cross and a powerful shot from the edge of the box. His bare-chested celebration after the first goal rivalled Tardelli's and Grosso's, with Mesut Özil's late penalty no real benefit to Joachim Löw's side, who were clear favourites going into the game.
"There are no unbeatable teams," Italy coach Cesare Prandelli had warned on the eve of the match, a motto Germany will have to remember next time they play the Azzurri in a competitive fixture.
Additional reporting by Philip Röber
©UEFA.com 1998-2014. All rights reserved.