Jonas Hector slotted the winning penalty in an epic shoot-out as Germany overcame Italy for the first time in major tournaments to win a compelling UEFA EURO 2016 quarter-final.
It was the first time these two teams had played a tie that had gone the full distance and after 18 penalties, seven of which were missed, Hector struck the clincher following Matteo Darmian's failed attempt.
Earlier, Mesut Özil had broken the deadlock in the 65th minute only for Leonardo Bonucci to reply from the spot and help a stubborn Azzurri side take Germany into extra time at the Stade de Bordeaux. Penalties followed with each team ceding advantage back and forth: Simone Zaza, Graziano Pellè and Bonucci missed for Italy, Thomas Müller, Özil and Bastian Schweinsteiger for Germany.
Germany had enjoyed the majority of possession but Italy also carried a threat, and once they equalised, they managed to neutralise the Mannschaft's attacking potency – even so, it is Germany who will face France or Iceland in Marseille on Thursday with a place in the final the prize on the line.
Eyes were fixed firmly on how Germany were going to set up after Joachim Löw's decision to replace Julian Draxler with Benedikt Höwedes. They started in a 3-5-2 and had the early territorial supremacy and possession, with the 16th-minute loss of Sami Khedira not affecting their flow as the midfielder succumbed to injury and was replaced by Schweinsteiger.
With Italy seeking to hit on the break, a half-chance for Mario Gomez was all Germany could muster in the opening 40 minutes until the game opened up. First Gomez headed over, then Müller passed up the opportunity to open his EURO finals account as he could not quite sort out his feet after Toni Kroos found him well placed in front of goal.
However, Italy immediately went closer than either side when Emanuele Giaccherini ghosted into space down the left and his cross found Stefano Sturaro – only the outstretched foot of Jérôme Boateng flicked the ball wide from the midfielder's drive.
Müller had a shot acrobatically cleared by Alessandro Florenzi and Boateng drove over as Germany's pressure first built, and then told. The breakthrough was easy on the eye as Gomez threaded in Hector, whose deflected cutback was clipped in at the near post by Özil. Löw's men went looking for more and only a miraculous save from Gianluigi Buffon denied Gomez.
It was to prove absolutely key as Italy came forward and, after Pellè screwed a shot just wide, received their lifeline. Giorgio Chiellini's flick-on struck Boateng's raised arms and Bonucci calmly put away the spot kick. Extra time came, and Julian Draxler's overhead narrowly cleared the bar, but it was to be penalties and – eventually – Germany's night.
Man of the match: Manuel Neuer (Germany)
There were two great goalkeepers on show in Bordeaux but it was Neuer who made the difference in the shoot-out – his presence as much as anything helping his team to a historic victory.
The Germany coach hinted before the match that he would adapt his team to Italy's style but mirroring their formation was maybe not what most observers thought he meant. It seemed to have worked as Hector got forward from wing-back to create Özil's opener – his first international goal since the 4-1 friendly win against the Azzurri – but Germany went to concede for the first time in the finals.
Shorn of two vital players, Daniele De Rossi and Antonio Candreva, Antonio Conte's men proved once again to be both more than the sum of their parts and highly resilient. It was not to be for Italy but their never-say-die ethos nearly helped them past the world champions.
Team reporters' views
Steffen Potter, Germany (@UEFAcomSteffenP)
When Italy and Germany meet, they are likely to produce a game that goes down in history. That was also the case here, history being written and indeed rewritten, as for the first time ever Germany beat Italy in a major championship – even if it was only on penalties. The Mannschaft won't care.
It took 120 minutes and 18 penalties to separate these two sides in a contest in which Germany dominated but Italy played to their own strengths and almost felled the FIFA World Cup holders, having dethroned the European champions in the last round. Hats off to both teams who produced probably the most intense match at UEFA EURO 2016 so far.
Ben Gladwell, Italy (@UEFAcomBenG)
Germany finally break their hoodoo against Italy in competitive fixtures in a dramatic penalty shoot-out. Italy coach Conte said he did not want his side to go out with any regrets and the way they fought back from behind to force extra time and penalties will ensure that a team who came into UEFA EURO 2016 with low expectations will return home with heads held high.
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