------by FIFAworldcup.com


07-05-2006 09:38

Germany against Italy is nothing short of a FIFA World Cup™ classic.

Over their four previous meetings at football's showpiece event, the Azzurri have the clear edge, but with the hosts oozing self-belief and the Italians looking clinical in the extreme, the outcome in Dortmund is too close to call.

The match
Germany–Italy, 21:00 (CET), Dortmund
The Germans have been gradually growing stronger since the start of the tournament, allying their famous fighting spirit with unexpected attacking verve to sweep aside all obstacles. Having already clocked up 11 goals in five games and with a Miroslav Klose in red-hot form (five goals), coach Jurgen Klinsmann can also rely on a defence which, having been dismissed as weak ahead of the finals, has only been breached three times.

Italy may not have shown quite the same swagger as the Nationalmannschaft so far, but the statistics speak for themselves: nine goals scored and just one conceded. Quite a feat considering Marcello Lippi has had to muddle through with a half-fit Francesco Totti, an out-of-sorts Alessandro Del Piero and a suspended Daniele De Rossi. Crucially, however, the Italians can claim to have history on their side, as they have not lost any of the teams' four FIFA World Cup encounters to date.

The duel
The game pits together two of the game’s fiercest competitors, a pair of unsung heroes who like nothing more than snaffling up loose balls, tackling tigerishly and instigating attacking moves. Elegance might not be their strong point, but any side would love to have a Gennaro Gattuso or Bernd Schneider within their ranks. Key players within the Italian and German systems, both men could have a major influence on the night's proceedings.

The absentees
Torsten Frings (GER), Daniele de Rossi (ITA)

Past meetings
West Germany–Italy, 11 July 1982, Madrid
Drained by an epic semi-final with France, the Germans were unable to hold out in this Final against an Azzurri side spearheaded by the rampant Paolo Rossi. Among the many unforgettable images from that game, none stands out more than that of a euphoric Marco Tardelli wheeling away in joy after netting Italy's second goal.

The question
Can the best defence in the tournament shut out the most prolific scorer so far? Having already equalled his five-goal total from 2002, Miroslav Klose looks perfectly poised to improve on his tally, but to do so, he will have to find a way past a well-disciplined and miserly Italian defence.

The figures
28: the number of times Germany have played Italy. The Italians have come out well on top with 13 wins, eight draws and seven defeats
5: the highest number of goals scored during extra time in a FIFA World Cup match, in the 1970 semi-final between Germany and Italy
4 out of four: the number of penalty shoot-outs won by Germany at FIFA World Cups.
3 out of three: the number of penalty shoot-outs lost by Italy at FIFA World Cups.
2: at the last two FIFA World Cups, Italy were knocked out by the host nations (France and Korea Republic)

Real Madrid’s legendary Spanish-Argentine goalscorer Alfredo Di Stefano celebrates his 80th birthday on 4 July. One of the first great stars of the global game, he never really had an opportunity to shine at the FIFA World Cup.

A FIFA World Cup blast from the past
4 July 1998, Germany 0-3 Croatia, Lyon
At the quarter-final stage of France 98, Davor Suker and his cohorts inflicted a heavy defeat on a Germany team that included today's coach Klinsmann. In what was their first-ever FIFA World Cup, Croatia went all the way to the third place on the podium.

Not a lot of people know this
'Zidane-mania' is sweeping France once again. After Les Bleus' win over Brazil, a Parisian cafe has decided to offer its customers a free drink during the semi-final on the sole condition that they say "Zidane!" during the match.

Having a laugh
"We lost to Italy 4-1 in a friendly, and with Bayern, we also conceded four against AC Milan. So we’ve no chance of winning this semi-final." Is Michael Ballack being pessimistic or sarcastic?