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Euro 2016: Coach Joachim Loew hails German ‘fighters’ who vanquished Italy

Joachim Loew hailed his team of “fighters” as Germany finally broke their Italy hoodoo by seeing off the Azzurri in a penalty shootout in Saturday’s Euro 2016 quarterfinal.

euro 2016 Updated: Jul 03, 2016 08:48 IST
Euro 2016,Joachim Loew,Germany vs Italy
Germany's players celebrate after winning the Euro 2016 quarterfinal football match between Germany and Italy at the Matmut Atlantique stadium in Bordeaux.(AFP Photo)

Joachim Loew hailed his team of “fighters” as Germany finally broke their Italy hoodoo by seeing off the Azzurri in a penalty shootout in Saturday’s Euro 2016 quarterfinal.

Jonas Hector hit the crucial German penalty to seal the world champions’ 6-5 victory in Bordeaux to claim a historic win over Italy.

It was the first time Germany have beaten the Azzurri in nine attempts at a World Cup or European Championships finals.

Read | Teary Buffon bids goodbye to Italy with ‘no regrets’ after Euro 2016 exit

“From a fighter’s point of view, it was amazing what the side did,” said Loew as Germany reached the semis at a Euro finals for the third time in a row.

The match finished 1-1 after extra-time as Mesut Ozil’s superbly-worked second-half goal was cancelled out by Leonardo Bonucci’s 78th-minute penalty.

Germany players celebrate after Jonas Hector (3) scored the final spot-kick in a penalty shootout to clinch the match for Germany in the Euro 2016 quarterfinals. (AFP Photo)

Man-of-the-match Manuel Neuer was Germany’s hero in the shootout, saving shots by Bonucci and Matteo Darmian in the marathon 18-penalty battle.

But the world champion’s efficiency deserted them at crucial times at the Stade de Bordeaux.

Stars faltered

Thomas Mueller, Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger failed to convert their shootout spot-kicks as nerves got to die Mannschaft’s stars.

But Loew was full of praise for Hector and 21-year-old Joshua Kimmich who nailed their penalties under intense pressure.

Read | A tale of 2 penalties for Bonucci as Italy exits Euro with heads held high

“The experienced players missed and the younger guys came through, so that’s quite positive,” Loew said.

“If you want to criticise anything, sometimes we lost the ball too easily.”

“We had a chance for a second goal, but Buffon produced a save and then an Italian player stopped Mueller.”

Italy's players react during a penalty shootout of the Euro 2016 quarterfinal football match between Germany and Italy. (AFP Photo)

Germany will face either France or Iceland in the Marseille semifinal next Wednesday as they chase a fourth European crown.

They will be without centre back Mats Hummels, who is suspended after picking up his second yellow card of the tournament.

There is also a question mark over midfielder Sami Khedira, who was forced off early, while striker Mario Gomez picked up a leg injury.

Read | Germany lift ‘Italian curse’, defeat Azzuri on penalties to reach semis

“It wasn’t great to see Sami come off after just 15 minutes,” admitted Loew.

“He had problems with his hamstring, I don’t know if it is serious.”

“Gomez had muscle problems, but I can’t say too much about it.”

“We have to recover and look after some players because a game like this affects the body.”

Loew pulled a surprise before kick off by naming a three-man defence in a deviation from the 4-2-3-1 formation, which beat Slovakia 3-0 in the last 16.

Germany's Thomas Mueller and Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger (right) celebrate after Germany won the penalty shootout of the Euro 2016 quarterfinal match against Italy. (AP Photo)

Loew said he decided to switch after watching Italy beat Spain in the previous round and after Germany beat Italy 4-1 in a friendly in March with the formation he used on Saturday.

Selection surprise

“It was necessary. You have to change the side after a game like Slovakia which was very different,” explained Loew.

“We tried to close down the centre for Italy.”

“After I saw the Spain game, that was my first thought.”

Germany's coach Joachim Loew looks on during the Euro 2016 quarterfinal football match. (AFP Photo)

“After the World Cup, I realised we had to change a little bit. We played a 3-5-2 against Italy in March and it worked.”

Loew said he expected France to squeeze past Iceland in Sunday’s quarterfinal.

“We’ll have to see, France is going to be the favourite, they’re a great side with individual quality,” said Loew.

“Iceland are a battling team, who are organised in defence. It’s not going to be easy for France.”

“I think if France manage to put quality on the pitch, then they will do enough to get to the semifinal.”

Loew dismissed any suggestion his players would be drained by the marathon against Italy.

“When you’re in the semi, of course, the goal is to reach the final. The players have to recover, but of course we want more,” he said.

For full Euro 2016 coverage, click here

First Published: Jul 03, 2016 08:46 IST