Die Mannschaft’s Italian Hoodoo

The German national team has achieved a lot in its history as a footballing nation. Die Mannschaft have won four World Cups, second most only to Brazil, as well as three European Championships. They also have a record number of top-four finishes in both major tournaments combining for twenty-one in total. Despite all that success though, Germany have never beaten Italy in a competitive match at senior international level.

The two nations have met eight times, five at the World Cup and three at the Euros, but Germany has not once come out on top whenever it mattered most. They have beaten Italy seven times in twenty-four friendlies, the last of which was a 2-0 triumph in Zurich, Switzerland in June 1995, but they have never been able to come out on top in games that truly counted.

Every team, even the best, has a bogey opponent that they find difficult to beat, but it’s pretty remarkable that after almost a century of competitive international football, Germany still has yet to beat Italy in an important match. Granted they’ve only met eight times in tournament play so the sampling is small, but considering that most of these were knockout fixtures, it just highlights Germany’s difficulties in beating the Azzurri in crunch moments and puts everything under a microscope.

Some of those meetings include the 1970 World Cup semifinal where Italy came out on top 4-3 after extra time in a match that was dubbed in many circles “The Game of the 19th Century”. Then, there was a goalless draw played out between the two in the 1978 World Cup, a result which contributed to an early end of Germany’s title defense that year in Argentina.

There was also the small matter of a World Cup final in 1982 in Spain, which Italy won 3-1 despite being outsiders going into the tournament. Italy also recently beat Germany in the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup, which Germany were hosts of, and in the same round at Euro 2012. There’s a few draws at the 1962 World Cup as well as Euro 1988 and 1996, the latter of which actually saw Italy get knocked out in the first round. That’s as close to a German victory as we’ve seen at a major tournament, but ultimately it doesn’t quite count as one.

The two teams will do battle again this Tuesday at the Allianz Arena, where Bayern Munich just overcame Italian champions Juventus in a thrilling Champions League battle two weeks ago. It will be just a friendly, though, so it won’t be an opportunity for Germany to set things straight and finally end their Italian hoodoo in competitive matches.  Both national squads come into the matchup as champions of their Euro 2016 qualification groups. The match will also be an opportunity for Jogi Löw’s squad to beat Antonio Conte’s Azzurri — Germany is winless against italy in five previous 21st century attempts, and restore some confidence, especially after Saturday’s loss to England after opening up a 2-0 lead. And of course there is the potential for a Germany-Italy Euro clash if they both advance from their groups (very likely) in France this summer.

Considering that both teams are below full strength, both sets of players have their minds elsewhere with the club season reaching its climax soon, and that neither country is particularly that good at friendlies anyways, it’ll probably a fairly low-tempo, low risk encounter. But knowing the rivalry that these two have, every time they meet is an important occasion. Maybe we’ll see them both step up to the plate to try to get one over on the other. It certainly won’t hurt either side’s confidence going into the Euros on the back of a win over one of their fiercest rivals for the crown, friendly or not.

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Edin Halilovic

Edin is a Bosnian currently residing in the United States whose interest in the Bundesliga and German football in general has been increasing heavily in recent years. Follow him @edinh_96