A team that never loses a penalty shootout vs a team that never loses to Germany. It was the proverbial irresistible force vs the immovable object, and the irresistible force won out in the end, as Germany clinched an as-dramatic-as-they-come penalty shootout victory over Italy in the quarterfinals of Euro 2016 in Bordeaux.
After the 120 minutes of the match ended 1-1, following goals from Mesut Ozil and Leonardo Bonucci, the shootout went to 18 penalties in all, with Jonas Hector firing the decisive spotkick to give Germany a 6-5 victory and a place in the semifinals, where they will play the winner of the match between France and Iceland.
Lorenzo Insigne stepped up to take the first penalty of the shootout, and slotted it coolly into the net, sending Manuel Neuer the wrong way, before Toni Kroos made it 1-1 with an expert penalty into the corner.
Simone Zaza took a while with his run-up, before firing his spotkick high, giving Thomas Muller the chance to give Germany the lead, a lead he would not be able to give, as a tame penalty was comfortable saved by Gianluigi Buffon.
Andrea Barzagli then put Italy back into the lead with a smash straight down the middle, before Germany missed again, as Mesut Ozil hit the post, instead of the net.
With the pressure telling, Graziano Pelle rolled his penalty wide, allowing Julian Draxler to draw Germany level at 2-2 following four penalties each.
Bonucci, the man who struck the spotkick home in normal time, was the fifth penalty taker for Italy, and this time he swung it to Neuer's right, the goalkeeper guessed right and made a splendid save.
Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany's captain and most experienced player, had the opportunity to send his team to the semifinals, but the pressure told again and his penalty went high and away.
Emanuele Giaccherini smashed it down the middle to put the pressure on Mats Hummels, who just about got the ball home, as the penalties continued into sudden death. Marco Parolo went down the middle as well, giving Italy a 4-3 lead, but Joshua Kimmich kept the drama going with a successful strike.
Mattia De Sciglio gave the Italy fans a heart-attack as he hit the underside of the bar, but the ball went in, with Jerome Boateng, the man who conceded a needless penalty in normal time, netting to make it 5-5.
Italy's ninth penalty was taken by Matteo Darmian, a weak one, which was easily saved by Neuer, giving Jonas Hector the chance to put his name in history. The left-back did it too, squeezing the ball past Buffon's left to send Germany into the semifinal of Euro 2016 and break the Italy hoodoo.
In the beginning of the game, Germany setup in a similar manner to Italy, with Joachim Low sacrificing an attacker – Draxler – for a defender in Benedikt Howedes, who formed a back three alongside Boateng and Hummels, with Kimmich and Hector playing as the wingbacks. Low's decision to go for a like-for-like formation meant both teams cancelled each other out, which made the goalmouth chances a rarity.
Such is the defensive nous of both teams at the moment, that neither side's attackers really had any joy. They were not given any time on the ball, and even if they managed to find a pass, someone came in to snuff the danger out in double quick time.
It took until the 42nd minute for either team to really create a chance, and even that opportunity was underwhelming, with Muller, so uninspiring in this quarterfinal, failing to get enough on his shot from 12 yards after the ball pinballed to him following a mishit effort from Toni Kroos.
Italy, soon after, created their best chance of the half when Giaccherini ran clear off a long pass from Bonucci, before putting a nice cross across goal. The ball eventually fell to Stefano Sturaro, whose shot was deflected wide off Boateng.
Something needed to give for this match to get a goal, and Germany seemed to up the ante in the second half, moving the ball around a lot more and taking complete control of possession. That led to some Italy frustration, with the referee Viktor Kassai handing out three yellow cards to Italy players in the space of a few minutes.
The closest Germany came during that early second half period to scoring was when Muller, after some brilliant work from Hummels and Hector down the left, had his shot, which was probably just swerving wide, cleared off the line by Alessandro Florenzi.
Germany's pressure finally paid off, though, in the 65th minute, with Mario Gomez doing all the dirty work, holding up the ball brilliantly down the left, before playing in Hector, whose deflected cross was well met by Ozil with the ball, as a result, hitting the back of the net.
Ozil nearly had an assist minutes after scoring as well, when a delightful lobbed pass from the Arsenal man found Gomez one-on-one with Gianlugi Buffon. However, his chest control just let him down a little and Chiellini nipped in ahead of him to deflect the ball, with Buffon having to make a rally good save, as the ball was heading into the net.
Germany were left to rue that miss, when a moment of madness from Jerome Boateng gave Italy a way back into the game in the 78th minute. Florenzi swung in a cross from the right, and Boateng, for some reason, decided to mimic a peacock, waving his arms up in the air for absolutely no reason and doing a dance in the penalty box, with the ball, inevitably, striking his hand.
The penalty was given, and Bonucci, with ice in his veins, slotted it into the bottom corner, past Neuer's left, and from there extra time was inevitable. And with only one team looking to win it in the extra 30, so was the penalty shootout, which went Germany's way, as it always does, allowing the world champions to pick up their first ever competitive win over Italy.