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5 things to know about Italy vs. Germany

November 14, 2013

MILAN (AP) — The last time Italy and Germany met was in the 2012 European Championship semifinals, and there ought to be no letup in fervor for the friendly on Friday between the teams who share seven World Cup trophies. Here’s five things to know about the match at San Siro.

BAD BOY BALOTELLI: Germany great Oliver Bierhoff has warned Italy striker Mario Balotelli that his career could be at risk if he doesn’t change his behavior. Balotelli has endured a dip in form and he continues to make headlines at AC Milan for his off-field antics, just as he did at Manchester City and Inter Milan.

“It’s difficult to judge a person who you don’t know personally,” Germany manager Bierhoff said. “But he’s a player who puts managers and clubs in difficulty with his behavior. If he continues like this it’s hard for him, he’s on a difficult path. It’s not the first club he’s had trouble at or the first time he’s had problems, and if it happens again he’s really risking a lot because he’s also judged on how he behaves. It’s a danger for him, but let’s hope he changes because he’s a good footballer.”

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, who confirmed Balotelli will start, shrugged off the comment. “Looking at how Balotelli has been these past few days, a bit of criticism has done well for him. I’ve never seen him so balanced, so determined, so motivated. Bierhoff said some very strong words, but that goes for any young footballer, not just Balotelli.”

GERMAN REVENGE? Balotelli scored both goals as Italy beat Germany 2-1 to advance to the European Championship final where it lost 4-0 to Spain last year. It was only the second time Germany had lost in seven semifinals and ended a run of 15 victories in competitive matches. But captain Philipp Lahm insists revenge is not on their minds. “Obviously it was a bitter defeat, especially as it was in the semifinal but there are always losers and winners in football,” he said. “There’s no sense of revenge because we can’t go back to the final so it’s already in the past. It’s useless to look backwards, we can’t play that match again. It’s a good test for us ahead of the World Cup and we’ll see how it goes.”

NEMESIS: Germany has traditionally struggled against Italy and has not won against the Azzurri in 18 years. Moreover, it has not beaten the Italians on their home turf since February 1986. “I have a good footballing memory but actually I can’t remember at all our last defeat to Germany,” Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said. “We really like this streak, let’s hope it continues. I think it will be a really good game.” Italy has won 15 of its 31 matches against Germany, losing only seven times.

“If you look at history, yes, Italy is our nemesis — one of the few for us Germans,” Lahm said. “But tomorrow we’re here to change history a bit.”

LOEW’S 100: This will be Germany coach Joachim Loew’s 100th in charge of the national team. His record is 68 wins, 16 draws, 15 losses. He is the fourth national coach to reach a century, Sepp Herberger tops the list with 167. “I’ve grown older, that’s certain, but I haven’t really changed as a person,” Loew said. “I manage the squad the same as I’ve always done. Maybe there’s a bit more pressure on me, but I’ve always been direct and clear. I’ve not changed on a human level.”

EUROPE’S DERBY: Italy and Germany have appeared in 14 World Cup finals, with Italy lifting the trophy four times and Germany winning the tournament three times. Only Brazil, with five victories, has been more successful. “This match can be considered as the derby of European football, looking at the importance the two teams have in the history of football,” Germany manager Oliver Bierhoff said. Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon agreed: “I like that term. It means that behind this game there’s an important history, but that there’s also an important present.”

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