Stats Zone: Germany's three crucial decisions against Italy
In an impressive show of GermanyÃ¢ÂÂs strength in depth, Jogi Low made three attacking changes between the 2-1 victory over Denmark in the group stage, and the 4-2 thrashing of Greece in the quarter-finals.
While Mesut Ozil remained the chief playmaker, the other three forward players in GermanyÃ¢ÂÂs 4-2-3-1 were different. Andre Schurrle replaced Lukas Poldolski, Marco Reus got the nod over Thomas Muller, and Miroslav Klose came in for Mario Gomez. Now, after such an impressive performance with the new players, Low has three huge selection decisions to make.
Podolski or Schurrle?Podolski started the 2011/12 season in impressive form for Koln, but his form dipped in line with the rest of the side, and he eventually suffered his third relegation with the club. Schurrle had a decent season at Bayer Leverkusen, though scored less than half the goals heÃ¢ÂÂd registered in 2010/11 with Mainz.
Schurrle is known for his calm passing and reliability in possession Ã¢ÂÂ but that was his major area of weakness against Greece. He continually misplaced short, simple passes and allowed the Greek side to counter-attack quickly down the flanks. One of these incidents resulted in GreeceÃ¢ÂÂs equaliser, scored by Georgios Samaras after good work down the right from Dmitri Salpingidis. StatsZone also shows how wasteful his finishing was, and it wasnÃ¢ÂÂt a surprise that he was the first player to be substituted by Low.
Podolski plays in slightly deeper, wider positions Ã¢ÂÂ and he grabbed a goal against Denmark. On the basis of the two playersÃ¢ÂÂ performances at this competition so far, Podolski deserves his place in the side more.
Muller or Reus?On the other flank, LowÃ¢ÂÂs decision is more difficult. World Cup Golden Boot winner Muller hasnÃ¢ÂÂt enjoyed the most fruitful tournament, although he appears to be a better player than Reus in a defensive sense. But Reus continued his tremendous Bundesliga goalscoring form into the match against Greece, with a powerful finish off the underside of the bar.
There isnÃ¢ÂÂt much to choose between the players Ã¢ÂÂ Muller moves slightly deeper when linking play, but both work in the same zone on the right-hand side, and both have the ability to drift across the pitch laterally to find space. ReusÃ¢ÂÂ pass completion rate has been better in the tournament so far Ã¢ÂÂ 87% compared to 80% Ã¢ÂÂ but Muller crosses the ball far more frequently, 12 times in his four appearances, whereas Reus didnÃ¢ÂÂt attempt any on his sole start.
Despite these slight differences, this might come down to form and confidence levels Ã¢ÂÂ in which case, Reus is in pole position.
Gomez or Klose?This feels like the classic debate Ã¢ÂÂ form against familiarity. Gomez has enjoyed a couple of stunning seasons in the Bundesliga, while Klose has been spearheading the German side for a decade.
Gomez started the tournament with a clever headed winner against Portugal, then notched two more goals against Holland. However, he then had a poor display in front of goal against Denmark, so Klose got his chance against Greece Ã¢ÂÂ and scored a typical header to stake his claim for a starting berth tonight.
Gomez is the more physical player, more of a target man, more capable of playing with his back to goal. But Klose offers so much more Ã¢ÂÂ heÃ¢ÂÂs mobile, his link-up play is superior, and he interchanges positions brilliantly with the other three attackers. The match against Italy is likely to be a quick, technical game Ã¢ÂÂ and that appears to suit KloseÃ¢ÂÂs skillset rather than GomezÃ¢ÂÂs.