How Italy can defeat Germany

Italians must stop fast breaks and win aerials to have a chance

Originally Published: June 27, 2012
By Albert Larcada | ESPN Insider
Andrea PirloClaudio Villa/Getty ImagesAndrea Pirlo needs to control the tempo if Italy is going to upset Germany.

For a team trying to figure out a way to beat Germany the past two years, the task can sometimes feel like trying to dig a tunnel with teaspoons. Since losing to Spain in the semifinals of the 2010 World Cup, Germany has won all 15 non-friendly matches it has played. Even more incredibly, the Germans have never trailed in their past 14 competitive matches. That's right, Germany hasn't trailed at any point in a non-friendly match in over 1,300 minutes on the field. It has averaged more than three goals per match and has surrendered on average fewer than one during this remarkable stretch.

That being said, Italy -- Germany's opponent in Thursday's semifinal (2:30 ET, ESPN, ESPN3.com) -- has been impressive itself since its debacle in South Africa two years ago. Italy has trailed in only one of its 13 competitive matches since the World Cup, a match it actually came back to win 2-1 at Estonia in Euro qualifying. So while Germany may have the headlines as the hottest team in the world entering this semifinal match, the Italians are clearly not the coldest.

Which begs the question: Can Italy find a way to pull off what would be the upset of the tournament?

Albert Larcada is an Analytics Specialist in ESPN's Stats & Information group. Among other analytics projects, he maintains, advances and writes about ESPN's Soccer Power Index (SPI) algorithm.