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Italy and Germany: a one-way love affair

Italy have booked a mouth-watering quarter-final date with Germany – a fixture whose mere mention is enough to bring the Mannschaft out in a cold sweat.

Sepp Maier is beaten by Gianni Rivera's winning goal in extra time in the 1970 World Cup semi-final
Sepp Maier is beaten by Gianni Rivera's winning goal in extra time in the 1970 World Cup semi-final ©Getty Images

Italy supporters are spoiled for choice when it comes to favourite past matches against Germany. The sides have met in eight competitive games and the Mannschaft are yet to win – causing the Azzurri to be rightly regarded as their bogey team.

EURO2016.com's Italian reporters needed no invitation to reflect on four memorable victories but, Germany fans, all is not lost: there's a happy ending, we promise. Well, kind of.

Italy 4-3 West Germany (aet)
17 June 1970, World Cup semi-final
This encounter at Mexico City's Azteca Stadium 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'. The Azzurri took an early lead through Roberto Boninsegna, but Karl-Heinz Schnellinger levelled for West Germany at the death despite Franz Beckenbauer playing with an injured arm in a sling.

Extra time was a frenzy: Gerd Müller scored, Tarcisio Burgnich replied, Luigi Riva put Italy back in front and Müller responded. Then up popped Gianni Rivera to notch the winner with nine minutes left. "No one has forgotten that match," Müller reflected. "It still drives me crazy thinking about it; 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.

Marco Tardelli's famous 1982 celebration
Marco Tardelli's famous 1982 celebration©Getty Images

Italy 3-1 West Germany
11 July 1982, World Cup final 
Tiredness was also 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."

Although Antonio Cabrini missed a first-half penalty, Paolo Rossi plundered his sixth goal of the tournament – all in the last three games – and Marco Tardelli and Alessandro Altobelli added two more for Enzo Bearzot's side before Paul Breitner's sole riposte for Germany. Italy's 40-year-old captain Dino Zoff duly 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?"

Gianluigi Buffon hugs goalscorer Fabio Grosso
Gianluigi Buffon hugs goalscorer Fabio Grosso©AFP

Italy 2-0 Germany (aet)
4 July 2006, World Cup semi-final
If the 1970 and 1982 defeats were painful enough, at least they happened a good way from home. There was no such comfort in 2006. After a goalless 90 minutes in Dortmund, extra time was agonising: Gianluigi Buffon made great saves to repel  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 1982 final strike. Alessandro Del Piero added another soon afterwards, and Italy went on to fell France on penalties in the final. "What a bitter pill to swallow," shattered Germany coach Jürgen Klinsmann said. "I still feel a shiver running down my spine when I think about that game," Grosso conceded years later.

Mario Balotelli celebrates his first goal
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first goal©AFP/Getty Images

Italy 2-1 Germany
28 June 2012, UEFA EURO 2012 semi-final
Four years ago today, Italy and Germany faced each other again in another semi-final – no prizes for guessing what happened next. Mario Balotelli was the Azzurri hero 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 joy after the first goal rivalled Tardelli's and Grosso's, with Mesut Özil's late penalty no real benefit to Joachim Löw's men, who had been 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.

Okay, it was only a friendly but in the sides' last duel in March ...

Germany after Jonas Hector's goal
Germany after Jonas Hector's goal©Getty Images

Germany 4-1 Italy
29 March 2016, friendly

Germany ended a 21-year, seven-game wait for a victory over Italy in a resounding triumph in Munich. Having thrown away a two-goal cushion to crash 3-2 to England a few days earlier, Löw's charges were 2-0 up at the interval through Toni Kroos and Mario Götze, and doubled their advantage thanks to Jonas Hector and Özil from the spot.

"I said we needed these big tests to evaluate things and test ourselves," said Antonio Conte, whose team got a consolation from Stephan El Shaarawy. "We knew there was a gap to certain sides that we have to bridge. Now let's see." Ominously for Germany, they are not doing badly on that front.

Germany and Italy’s past EURO meetings
Germany and Italy’s past EURO meetings