London: So much praise is so often heaped on Germany for the mental toughness they display in football, often topped with a slice of arrogance — and there was more evidence of that with the newspaper Bild declaring “no one can stop us now” as the team prepared for Thursday’s Euro 2012 semi-final against Italy.
And yet the Italians are a formidable proposition — Germany have not beaten them for 17 years and never in a major tournament in a record that covers three defeats in the closing stages of World Cups.
The statistics prompted striker Miroslav Klose to claim on Tuesday it was “silly” to suggest Germany had a “mental block” when it came to playing Italy, even if the wounds of the 2006 World Cup semi-final defeat, a 2-0 loss after extra time on home soil, have left scars.
“I think it is silly to talk about a mental block [against Italy],” said Klose, one of two survivors, along with captain Philipp Lahm, from that bitter encounter. “Yes it was a trauma [in 2006]. It lasted a bit but now it is gone.”
Klose now plays in Italy with Lazio and, speaking at the team’s training base outside Gdansk, he joked that he was “a bit of a spy” for Germany. “I suppose I will try and pass on info to my teammates if needs be,” said the 34-year-old striker, who displaced Mario Gomez in the 4-2 quarter-final victory over Greece and is hopeful of retaining his starting place.
“All the German qualities, however, the Italians take with a pinch of salt. They are a more laid-back people, also in football. But, for this match, it might be an advantage for the Italians.”
Klose, who scored against Greece to take his international goals tally to 64 in 120 appearances, is again proving himself to be an important player at a major tournament, having scored five headers in the 2002 World Cup and finishing top scorer four years later.
Referring to Italy’s record, Klose said Germany, seeking to win this competition for a fourth time, were in a “mood to change history”, although coach Joachim Loew maintained the match in Warsaw is not about gaining retribution.
“In football there is no such thing as revenge,” Loew, Jurgen Klinsmann’s assistant during the 2006 World Cup, said.
“The past plays absolutely no role for us or for our young players who may know things only from history no game has anything to say to us. Not the old ones and not the one in 2006.”
Both teams are now different, Loew said, describing Italy as “stronger in offence” under Cesare Prandelli, although he dismissed the coach’s suggestion that Germany had the advantage because they had had more time to recovery from their quarter-final.
“Four days is enough to recover and I did not see them tired,” Loew said. “Quite the opposite, it was the England players who looked tired after a certain stage.”