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Pirlo says Germany fear Italy

Andrea Pirlo's majestic penalty against England may have been "purely spur of moment" but he says nothing will be left to chance when Italy try to get the better of Germany yet again.

Andrea Pirlo cut a cool figure during Tuesday's conference
Andrea Pirlo cut a cool figure during Tuesday's conference ©Getty Images

Andrea Pirlo is anticipating a "beautiful", open semi-final on Thursday and believes that, with recent history on their side, Italy have nothing to fear from Joachim Löw's men. Indeed, if anything it is the other way around. "Germany are afraid of Italy," he told today's press conference.

Pirlo has epitomised Italy's free-flowing football philosophy this tournament, producing a string of superb performances: pulling the strings, setting up goals and even scoring himself. The Juventus midfielder lit up the quarter-final against England with an exceptional display crowned by his Panenka-style chipped penalty, or 'cucchiaio' ('spoon'), that spurred the Azzurri fightback in the shoot-out. It was perhaps inevitable that this was one of the first questions put to the former AC Milan playmaker.

"I didn't practise my penalty," he said. "It was spontaneous. I don't think about missing in those situations. What happened was purely spur of moment. When I saw the goalkeeper [Joe Hart] going to ground I decided to strike the ball in that way, also to bring him down a peg or two."

Six years after shining at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Pirlo clearly remains at the height of his powers and exudes a confidence borne of a gifted player who has enjoyed a glittering career. Pirlo has won three Scudetti, two UEFA Champions League titles and a World Cup winners' medal. The latter was achieved with a semi-final victory against Germany in Dortmund and Pirlo sees the parallels this time around.

"The difference then was that they were on home soil, playing in front of their own fans, but other than that it is a similar situation. We have a good squad and are strong in every department. Germany are similar to six years ago in terms of the way they play and their desire to win, and this is another semi-final. I am sure that they are afraid of us, looking at our record, as they won't want a repeat of 2006.

"We have watched all of Germany's matches. They are a great side with the right mentality, and in the last few years they have been in six semi-finals. We studied them this afternoon, but we know we can beat them. We will try to impose our game on them the way we did on England, although it will definitely be a different match as Germany will try to play openly."

Like Cesare Prandelli yesterday, Pirlo identified Germany's Mesut Özil as their chief danger man – a player with similar vision to Italy's No21 and one who has earned plaudits for his displays at these finals. The 33-year-old, though, refuted suggestions he is in the running for the next FIFA Ballon d'Or award. "I don't ever think about that because it's impossible to finish ahead of the likes of [Lionel] Messi and [Cristiano] Ronaldo."

What Pirlo is thinking about now, however, is helping Italy secure their first UEFA European Championship in 44 years. "We knew we could do well from the very start, because we have the right spirit and desire. We just need to keep playing our way and try to avoid making mistakes. I'm curious to play in this important game. I'm almost at the end of my career and I might not experience these emotions again. Now we're in the last four we want to go all the way. We are here to win this EURO."