Euro 2012: Where It All Went Wrong for Germany Against Italy
An intriguing Euro 2012 final was set up for Sunday as Italy stormed to an early 2-0 lead through "Super" Mario Balotelli and didn't let up, taking the final spot with a 2-1 win.
For Germany, it was the end of the road of a tournament that many expected them to win.
The normally high-flying Germans looked lethargic and lazy throughout the whole game, save for the last 10-15 minutes, but it was far too little, far too late.
Where did it go so wrong for the Germans, who looked like champions coming into the tournament?
Let's find out.
Germany Is Basically Bayern Munich
Much like Spain, who derives their talent largely from domestic clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona, Germany gets most of their starting XI from Bayern Munich—one of, if not the largest club in Germany.
Out of today's starting lineup for Germany, seven of them play for Bayern Munich. Thomas Müller was the only Bayern man not to start, but he eventually found his way onto the pitch.
Now, normally, that would constitute a large, beneficial amount of camaraderie, and in the group stages of the tournament, that looked to be true.
But for those of you who don't remember, Bayern Munich's season ended on May 19th with a Champions League final loss to Chelsea. The Euro Cup started on June 8th.
That's only around three weeks off, in theory. The German team then had to fly out to training camp, so realistically it was only about one-and-a-half to two weeks off.
That's not enough time to recuperate for what constitutes the large majority of a starting lineup.
When two-thirds of your team is tired, mistakes will happen. Too many mistakes were made by Germany today, and it ended up costing them.
Bastian Schweinsteiger Was More Tired Than Everybody Else
Alongside Mesut Özil, Bastian Schweinsteiger has filled in the role of midfield maestro effectively since the departure of Michael Ballack.
He looked ineffective against Greece, when the reports started surfacing, and continued his poor run of form against the Italians.
Can a player become so important to a team that he risks a more serious injury even though he will be less effective?
Joachim Löw made a mistake starting Schweinsteiger today. He was again inefficient, giving up the ball more than usual, and he wasn't as threatening going forward as he normally is.
I bet Mario Götze would have loved the opportunity. Or İlkay Gündoğan, who leaves Poland without seeing a single minute.
Joachim Löw Didn't Use His Team's Bench to Its Full Potential
When it became apparent that Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski and Thomas Müller weren't playing effectively, Joachim Löw should have utilized the embarrassment of riches on his bench.
Marco Reus, the reigning Bundesliga Player of the Year, started the game on the bench.
Mario Götze, one of the most exciting young prospects in the game who has shown he can play at the highest level with Borussia Dortmund, started the game on the bench.
André Schürrle, who had a great season with Bayer Leverkusen and is another exciting young player, started the game on the bench.
Miroslav Klose, second all-time on Germany's scoring list, started the game on the bench.
These are four players who could have made a much larger impact on the game than some of the ineffectual players that started the game today.
Mario Balotelli Simply Peaked at a Bad Time for Germany
Mario Balotelli picked a great time to be awesome for Italy.
He picked a bad time to be awesome for Germany.
Italy Was Better Prepared for the Game Than Germany Was
Italy showcased their resilience in the quarterfinal against England, grinding out a penalty-kick win after 120 minutes of tense football.
Germany breezed through their quarterfinal with Greece, running away with a comfortable 4-2 win. A dangerous air of complacency came with it.
In the first half, Germany looked like they were underestimating the Italians—something they dearly paid for.
Italy knows how to grind out games. We saw it against England and Spain. We saw it in the last 15-20 minutes against Germany when there was constant pressure and a seemingly never-ending rain of shots on Gianluigi Buffon's goal.
Italy just knows how to tire opponents.
They know how to win.
It will be an interesting night of football come Sunday night with a Spain-Italy final. Hang on to your hats.