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Euro: Italy-Germany storylines

06/26/2012 04:23 EDT | Updated 08/26/2012 05:12 EDT
The stage is set for the semifinal match between Italy and Germany at the 2012 European Championship. The Italians booked their ticket to the game after dominating England in quarter-final play and ultimately defeating them in penalty kicks.

Germany has been cruising since the beginning of the tournament, including an easy quarters meeting against Greece.

But only one of these two soccer powerhouses will reach the main event of the tournament. Here are the storylines to follow ahead of the intense matchup on Thursday in Warsaw.

1. Azzurri dominance. The Italians have their opponent's number in the head-to-head international matchup, beating Germany 14 times in 30 games (nine draws). Added to the negative record, the Germans have never been able to defeat Italy in a major tournament.

2. Time for revenge. The German dreams of winning the 2006 World Cup on home soil were shattered by Italy; the visitors scored two late goals and denied Germany a shot for the cup at home. The Italians went on to win it all that year.

3. Who can stop Italian Andrea Pirlo, who has been the best midfielder of Euro 2012 so far. The Juventus playmaker's technique and vision has put him on another level, giving Italy a slight edge in the middle of the field. This could be the difference in a very close match. Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira will have the tough task of trying to stop the 'Architect.'

4. Which Balotelli will show up? The talented but controversial striker has yet to prove why he deserves the main starting spot in attack for Italy. When playing his game, the Manchester City forward is a threat in attack and his word-class skills can easily crack the best defensive lines. But we haven't seen that game yet.

5. Unlimited ammo. Germany boasts two of the best attacking weapons of Euro 2012 in Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose. Gomez, often criticized by German media for his style of play with Bayern Munich, has silenced his doubters with three goals in four games. Klose, the golden boot winner at the 2006 World Cup, is Germany's second all-time scorer.

6. Battle of youth vs. experience. The sides are equally great when it comes to defending goal, with highly regarded Manuel Neuer in net for Germany and veteran Gianluigi Buffon leading the Italians from the back. Neuer, 26, is already considered one of the best in the world and his abilities keep improving. 'Gigi' has been named Serie A goalkeeper of the year eight times and is the IFFHS (International Federation of Football History & Statistics) best keeper of the 2000-2010 decade, establishing himself as one of the best in the history of the game. Both teams should be confident in their netminders in a penalty-kick situation.

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