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Soccer

Euro 2012: Too Little Too Late For Germany

WARSAW — If you are a Germany fan, what a heartbreaking game. If you are an Italian fan, once again your team cast a magical spell over the Germans, and have extended their undefeated streak in tournament football against Die Mannschaft (4-0-4).

In a game that Germany dominated offensively for the most part, it was their poor defense that would let the Italians break through.

Mario Balotelli exploited Holger Badstuber and a Phillip Lahm and Jérôme Boateng combination (mostly Boateng’s fault because Lahm was expecting over the top help, which he didn’t get) for two goals, which would be the deciding factor.

What went wrong for the Die Mannschaft in the Euro 2012 semifinal? Just about everything.

Offensively, they had their chances. They outshot Italy 15 – 8, including 10-5 on goal. They also held an outstanding advantage on corners, 14-0. Zero! Yet, the Italians were the ones who converted their chances.

In the first half, Lukas Podolski and Mario Gomez were horribly out of form. Podolski had very poor touches on the offensive end, while Gomez was hardly seen at all. Die Mannschaft also had poor spacing, which made it much easier for the Italians to defend.

In the second half, head coach Joachim Löw made the right choice to sub both Gomez and Podolski out in favor of Miroslav Klose and Marco Reus.

Offensively, the Germans kicked it into high gear and kept up an assault on Italian goalie Gianluigi Buffon, but he and the Italian defense stood tall.

Reus had one heck of a free kick, but Buffon made an even better save to deny Germany. Toni Kroos, Mesut Özil – who was one of the few Germany players that played well – and Lahm all had excellent chances to score for Germany, but were either off target or were easy saves for Buffon.

Then, in the 71st minute, Löw through in the towel on defense and inserted Thomas Müller for Boateng, hoping that Germany could push forward and score.

Yet, instead of staying back, the Italians continued to move forward and had plenty of opportunities to increase their lead.

How much did Germany miss big man Per Metersacker in the middle? Mats Hummels and Holger Badstuber’s youth and inexperience showed, especially on Balotelli’s first goal. Sure, Metersacker has been injured and out of form, but he played well in the 2010 World Cup and his big body would have been an advantage over the smaller Balotelli.

It wasn’t until a handball in the box in the 91st minute, and an Özil conversion from the spot, that Germany would score.

But by then, the Italians had all but wrapped up the victory.

Germany had their chances, but could not convert. Even when they did, it was too little, too late.

Paul Troupe is the lead writer for the Nebraska Cornhuskers and San Antonio Spurs, while covering many major sports for RantSports. You can follow him on Twitter @gamin4HIM