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Why Germany just can't lose against Italy

Hosts will face Italy in World Cup semifinals in Dortmund, where the German team has never been defeated. It has won 13 and drawn once at this stadium.

india Updated: Jul 03, 2006 14:27 IST

Between a refusal by the players to shave off their lucky beards and the match being staged in their favorite stadium, it seems unthinkable Germany could lose.

The host nation will face Italy in the World Cup semifinals on Tuesday in Dortmund, where the German team never has been defeated. The host nation has won 13 and drawn once at the 63,700-seat stadium over the years.

"It's really motivating to come to Dortmund and play the semifinals," said central defender Christoph Metzelder, who plays for Bundesliga giant Borussia Dortmund. "There is something special here. There hasn't always been a rational reason for it. But the Dortmund people live and breathe football.

"It's not just my stadium, it has become our stadium. It will be a match Germany hasn't seen to date. I hope we can exploit the electric atmosphere of the stadium. We are going to give Italy a mighty fight."

The host team are so familiar with the western city stadium that they declined the chance to train there ahead of the semifinal. Germany already played a group stage match there against Poland, and won 1-0.

"The spectators are a real phenomenon in Dortmund, and it will work to our advantage. There's no doubt about that," midfielder Tim Borowski said. "It will be the 12th man."

To compile more good fortune, Metzelder and right back Arne Friedrich have stopped shaving, superstitious that it might end their winning streak.

"The beard will only come off when it's over for us," said Metzelder, who has grown a fairly thick thatch.

However, countering Germany's enchanted past in Dortmund and Metzelder's beard is Italy's history against the host nation. Italy has never lost to Germany in six competitive matches, winning two and drawing four since in 44 years.

It remains undefeated in their four World Cup matches with the Germans. The two countries last met in 1982 when Italy won the final 3-1 in Madrid, Spain.

Overall, the Italians lead the all-time series 13-7, with eight draws.

Granted, Italy is unfamiliar with the Dortmund turf, where they will play for the first time.

And they will not have the home advantage this time. "It's going to be tough but we'll be giving it everything we've got to try and reach the final," Italian midfielder Gennaro Gattuso said. "Most of the stadium will be against us, but we're used to that from European club football.

"You don't notice the fans when you're on the pitch, they're not playing. Germany or Argentina wouldn't have made any difference. Is it or is it not a World Cup semifinal?"