Home Sports Germany Defeats Italy in Shootout Because the Rules Require a Winner

Germany Defeats Italy in Shootout Because the Rules Require a Winner

In Picture: Mesut Ozil (8) scored Germany’s only goal in regulation, but the team beat Italy on Jonas Hector’s ninth-round penalty kick.

Bordeaux (France), July 3, 2016: After 120 minutes of cautious, grindingly intense play followed by eight rounds of often farcical penalty kicks, a relatively unheralded defender for Germany, Jonas Hector, struck a fairly mediocre shot from 12 yards out that somehow slithered under Gianluigi Buffon, the star Italian goalkeeper, who essentially dived over the ball. Relieved, Hector jumped around with his teammates; gutted, Buffon collapsed on to his back.

It was that sort of night here at the Stade de Bordeaux, as Italy could never quite do enough and Germany, barely, continued its historical dominance in penalty shootouts, defeating the Italians by 6-5 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the quarterfinals of the European Championships. The Germans, who are the defending World Cup champions, will not quibble over their ugly victory; they beat Italy in a major tournament for the first time in nine games, and on Thursday in Marseille, they will play either France or Iceland for a place in the final.

Between now and then, however, one imagines that Germany’s coach, Joachim Löw, will have a simulated shootout or two, if only so his players can rid themselves of any lingering feelings from Saturday’s affair, which will surely go down as one of the worst shootouts between two top teams.

Six players missed in a wide variety of ways during the first five rounds, including Thomas Müller’s weak side-footed attempt for Germany, Graziano Pelle’s yanked shot past the post for Italy, Mesut Ozil’s bank off the upright for Germany and, most bizarrely, Simone Zaza’s endless stutter-step run up that seemed to take hours before he blasted the ball miles over the net.

Germany had last missed a kick in a shootout in 1982 — five shootouts and 22 kicks ago — but, scruffy as this showing was, it was enough. Germany’s goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, stopped Matteo Darmian’s shot in the ninth round, setting up Hector’s squeaker, which sealed it. Ultimately, it was Germany’s younger players, like Hector and Joshua Kimmich, who succeeded in the shootout while veterans, such as Müller and Ozil and the captain Bastian Schweinsteiger, failed.

“It was a war for my nerves,” Neuer said. “As a goalkeeper, it’s something special.”

Buffon, who made his first appearance for Italy in 1997, was understandably more morose.

“It was shocking what went on,” he said. “Managing to lose on the final penalty, having seen them miss three out of five? I don’t think that’s ever happened before. It’s inexplicable.”

As they processed their regret, Italy’s players tried to find positives, their happiness over making a tournament run that few expected tempered by the agony that comes with having let a chance for an upset slip away.

Antonio Conte, the Italian coach who will now step down and join Chelsea in the Premier League, had said his players would need to deliver something “extraordinary” against Germany. They very nearly did.

“The sadness in the dressing room was huge,” Conte said. “We really believed in this dream.”

Much like Italy’s round-of-16 match with Spain, this game had the feel of a final, if only because the teams have eight World Cup trophies and four Euros titles between them. Fans packed the city center early in the day, drinking the region’s famous wine in the squares and marveling at the stunning Aquitaine Bridge or the somber Girondins memorial before heading to the sparkling new stadium north of the city.

There, they mingled amiably, though Italy’s fans, perhaps more than any other team’s, might have rued their draw in this tournament: Italy finished first in its group only to end up facing Spain and Germany in the first two knockout-round games while the second-place team in Group E, Belgium, played Hungary in the round of 16 and Wales in the quarterfinals.

Still, the Italians did not wallow. Instead, they came out fiercely against Spain, blowing away any longstanding notions about being a defense-only team with a measured, calculated attack to oust the Spaniards before tucking in more reservedly against Germany. Their 3-5-2 formation — with two outside midfielders dropping back constantly — largely kept the Germans from troubling Buffon.

With Germany playing a similar formation, there was little up-and-back to the match, few frenetic exchanges like the ones seen in Wales’s victory over Belgium on Friday. This was more of an arm-wrestle, one side pushing — quite hard at times — but failing to topple the other.

“It was a drama,” Löw said. “Two sides on the highest tactical level.”

Löw added: “In the end, we were lucky.”

He meant in the shootout, though two goals preceded that. The first came just after the hour when Mario Gómez worked the ball down the left side and Hector delivered a sharp cross into the middle that deflected off a defender and fell for Ozil, who swept it past Buffon with style.

At the time, it felt as if that goal would be the difference. The Italians had controlled so little of the play and Germany continued to push — Buffon made a fantastic save just minute after the goal to keep it 1-0 — that it seemed as if only a slip-up by the Germans would keep them from a victory.

Except then came the mistake.

With just over 10 minutes remaining, Jérôme Boateng, the German defender, was marking Giorgio Chiellini after a corner kick, and as the ball came into the penalty area, he threw his arms in the air to show the referee, as demonstratively as possible, that he was not holding his opponent.

The referee believed him. But the referee also saw the ball bounce high and hit Boateng’s raised hand. The whistle blew. The Italians shouted. Boateng dropped his arms and, simultaneously, his head. Leonardo Bonucci made the ensuing penalty kick. Italian fans shouted with glee. On they went.

The players slogged through 30 minutes of extra time, and then came the shootout. Italy could have taken control when Ozil missed, but Pelle’s shot was wide. Germany could have won after Neuer stopped Bonucci, but Schweinsteiger looped his shot over.

Back and forth it went, three rounds of each team scoring before Neuer palmed away Darmian’s attempt at the right corner. That left it for Hector, playing in his first Euros, to send Germany to the final four of its sixth consecutive major tournament.

“There weren’t too many players left to shoot, so sooner or later you have to do it,” Hector said. “I was just happy I was courageous enough.”