KRAKOW, Poland – Bastian Schweinsteiger is winning his battle to be fit for the semifinal against Italy where the relentless midfielder will have to nullify the mercurial Andrea Pirlo if Germany is to end its hoodoo.
The Germans have never beaten Italy at a major championship, famously losing the 2006 World Cup semi-final on home soil to the eventual victors.
However, they have yet to come up against a midfielder with the class of Pirlo, who has scored or set up all Italy’s goals here and produced a wonderful display in the quarter-final with England before scoring the cheekiest of penalties.
The dinked spot kick in the shootout showed the 33-year-old is far from over the hill as some had wondered and instead is revelling in a confident spell of form which pundits already think could lead him to be named player of the tournament.
“Pirlo’s penalty even surprised me,” Italy coach Cesare Prandelli told reporters. “Then when he said that he took it like that to put pressure on the English I realized that there is always something to learn from champions like him.”
If anyone can stop his raking passes in Warsaw, it is the dynamic Schweinsteiger, who seems to cover every blade of grass and epitomises Germany’s youthful yet experienced side of all-round talents.
Schweinsteiger suffered an ankle injury in February and it is still hampering his movement but the team is hopeful he can play after missing two days of training to rest.
“Bastian is a world class player and he is a leading player in our team,” said playmaker Mesut Ozil. “I hope he can be fit in time for the game.”
Otherwise Germany is fully fit and at full strength.
Italy created reams of chances in the goalless 120 minutes against England and its lack of a finishing touch will haunt it if it continues in the Polish capital. — Reuters