Italy has played to a draw in three of its four Euro 2012 matches, including a dramatic and daring 4-2 penalty kick win over England in the quarterfinals. If Italy is to knock off the juggernaut Germans in the semifinals on Thursday (2:45 p.m. Eastern on ESPN), it's likely that penalty kicks will come into play once again.
Except it is the Germans who are the penalty-kicking kings. In 28 major tournament shootout attempts, Germany has missed just two times.
The image of the Italians in penalty kicks is cool and carefree, a sentiment hammered home by Andrea Pirlo's brave chip shot down the middle against England, which was placed safely away from diving goalie Joe Hart.
England manager Roy Hodgson was in awe of the brazen shot selection, saying:
The cool, calculated way Pirlo chipped it, that is something you have or you don't have as a player.
While it was obvious the Italians were mentally superior to the English, it is actually the Germans who ruthlessly dominate penalty picks, as Yahoo! notes:
Germany have only ever failed to score with two of their 28 penalties in major tournament shootouts, giving them a conversion rate of 93 per cent.
Uli Hoeness failed to score in the final of Euro '76 before Antonin Panenka chipped a winner down the middle for Czechoslovkia, while Uli Stielike missed against France at the 1982 World Cup.
Are penalty kicks pure luck, or have the Germans figured out a method for taking them?
Italy do not fare well by comparison having scored with 72 per cent of their attempts, yet the Azzurri also have more experience having been involved in two more shoot-outs."
Only two misses in major tournament shootouts. Ever. Italian goalie Gianluigi Buffon might have something to say about that, as he made a pivotal save on Ashley Cole’s penalty kick against England, but the Germans clearly have a method to the madness that is constantly dismissed as nothing more than a lottery.
As the semifinals match nears, German goalkeeper coach Andreas Kopke wouldn't reveal the secret to successful penalty kicks, but would say:
Sometimes you have to lure the goalkeeper the other way, or wait until the last possible moment for him to have moved before you kick.
Germany is 5-1 all-time in major tournament shootouts, while Italy is just 3-5.