Italy face daunting task in Dortmund
BERLIN, July 3: Italy will have to do what no other team has done before and beat Germany in Dortmund tomorrow if they are to reach the World Cup final.
Unbeaten Germany were not considered among the favourites before the tournament but the hosts have gone from strength to strength, winning four of their five games to set up the semi-final clash with Italy.
Overcoming Argentina, regarded as the best team in the tournament, 4-2 on penalties has given Juergen Klinsmann's young team a sizeable boost.
Germany, who like Italy have won the World Cup three times, were their usual confident selves in the shootout and would be comfortable with another draw and more spot kicks.
Italy will feel they have to win in 90 or 120 minutes and that is something no opponent has managed in 71 years of German international matches in Dortmund.
In that time, Germany have won 13 of the 14 matches they have played there, with a 1-1 draw against Wales in 1977 the only blot on the record.
''The Dortmund crowd is a phenomenon,'' Germany midfielder Tim Borowski said this week. ''The spectators will be the 12th man for us.'' Klinsmann, who was part of the West Germany team that won the World Cup for the third time in 1990, has no injury problems and will be able to field the same team that overcame Argentina.
Miroslav Klose, whose equaliser against Argentina was his fifth goal at this tournament, suffered a slight calf injury in the game but has recovered, according to assistant coach Joachim Loew.
There is a question mark over the participation of midfielder Torsten Frings after FIFA said on Sunday it was investigating his role in the fracas that followed the penalty shootout against Argentina.
Italy are looking to keep up their record of appearing in the final every 12 years since their 1970 defeat to Brazil.
The last time the Azzurri faced the Germans in a World Cup was their 1982 final triumph over West Germany.
Marcello Lippi's side, who have had a relatively easy path to the last four with knockout stage wins over Australia and Ukraine, beat Germany 4-1 in a friendly in Florence on March 1 but know that gives little clue about Tuesday's task.
''It will be completely different to the 4-1,'' said Italy defender Gianluca Zambrotta. ''That was a friendly in Italy and this is the semi-final of the World Cup in Germany.
''They are doing very well, they have got to the semi-finals and I am sure they will want to go all the way. It is going to be a tough game for both sides,'' added the full-back.
Lippi will almost certainly be without central defender Alessandro Nesta, who is continuing to struggle with a groin injury.
Marco Materazzi will return from suspension to replace Andrea Barzaghi alongside captain Fabio Cannavaro in the centre of a defence which has conceded just one goal in five games in the tournament.
The final will be against Portugal or France on July 9 in Berlin.