The ever-gracious Gianluigi Buffon struggled to hold back tears as Italy suffered their first ever competitive loss to Germany, losing 6-5 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in normal time. Despite an admirable performance, the Azzurri just didn't manage to hold their nerve to the end in what was a cagey and tactical match from start to finish.
Germany started the match strongly and Italy struggled to find their feet for much of the first half, however they grew into the game as it went on. The absence of Daniele De Rossi in front of the defence was felt badly as Italy struggled to play out of the back with any kind of efficiency and often found themselves succumbing to pressure from the Germans. The first half passed by uneventfully as both teams set about feeling one another out, however things became more lively in the second half.
Italy were their usual organised selves at the back, marshalling the likes of Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos every bit as well as you would expect them too, but the midfield struggled severely with the athleticism and tempo with which Die Mannschaft played. Despite improvement in the second half from Italy, the Germans quickly stamped their authority on proceedings with a goal from Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil who thumped the ball into the net from close range leaving a helpless Gianluigi Buffon with little chance of stopping it. They would have been 2-0 up shortly afterwards had it not been for an incredible point blank save from Buffon to deny Mario Gomez.
Fortunately, the response was swift from the Azzurri. The team began to push up the field and the likes of Emanuele Giaccherini and Alessandro Florenzi upped their intensity tenfold. A sustained spell of Italy pressure resulted in a deserved penalty after Jerome Boateng comically handled the ball inside his own box. It was down to Leonardo Bonucci to do the honours and he smashed it confidently passed Manuel Neuer to even the odds for the Azzurri. Italy's game management shone through late on as they saw out the reminder of standard time with relative comfort. Extra time proved similarly uneventful besides a few late substitutions for the Azzurri as Lorenzo Insigne came on for Eder and Simone Zaza replaced Giorgio Chiellini in added time.
Even given Germany's phenomenal record of five penalty shootout wins in six at major tournaments, Italy seemed happy to let the match go to penalties. But despite a heroic performance from Buffon, who saved Thomas Muller's penalty and guessed the right way just about every other time as well, it was not to be for the Azzurri. This will surely go down as one of the worst penalty shootouts of all time as their were an extraordinary seven misses out of eighteen spot kicks, with howlers from Zaza and Pelle cancelling out misses from Muller and Schweinsteiger.
Ultimately it went down to sudden death and it was Germany who held strong as Jonas Hector smashed home the winning penalty to punish Matteo Darmian for his earlier miss. Italy did brilliantly to take it to penalties, and arguably should have gone on to win given the poor standard of penalties from Germany and they can only have themselves to blame as a result. Expectations have grown exponentially for the Azzurri as Euro 2016 has progressed and to lose like this will sting especially hard. Despite the result however, they can be proud of the way they performed throughout. Sadly though, it was time for the Germans to have their day at last.