Bierhoff: Germany are favourites against Italy

The former AC Milan forward, who spent a decade playing in Serie A, is confident that Die Mannschaft will gain revenge for their defeat to the Azzurri in Dortmund six years ago
Oliver Bierhoff acknowledges that there are obvious parallels between Italy and Germany's Euro 2012 semi-final showdown and their epic last-four encounter at the 2006 World Cup, but feels that there is one crucial difference this time around: Die Mannschaft are now the stronger of the two.

Six years ago, the Azzurri were crowned world champions despite dealing with a match-fixing scandal back home and defeated Germany in Dortmund along the way. History could now very well repeat itself, given the current Italy side's preparations for the Euros were overshadowed by Scommessopoli.

However, Bierhoff, who spent a decade plying his trade in Serie A, feels it far more likely that Joachim Low's side will gain revenge for their 2006 semi-final heartbreak.

"This time we are ahead [of them]," the former striker told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I'm glad that it's Italy because of my own personal history. And because compared to 2006, we are the favourites.

"I speak with respect for Italy, not only with the desire for revenge. But since 2010 the hierarchies in the game have changed. Italy played a great game against England [in the quarter-finals], but they are beatable."

Germany have never before beaten the Italians in a major international tournament but Bierhoff believes it would be a mistake to read too much into that particular piece of trivia.

"Statistics are also made to be broken and this feels like the right moment [for us]," the team manager revealed. "I don't think that the past will be a determining factor.

"This Germany side has improved even compared to South Africa in 2010. It has many united guys who are full of quality and enthusiasm.

"But above all, they know to keep their feet on the ground. They know where they want to go, that is to win the title, but without being presumptuous.

"And then, we have the best bench. You have seen who was left out against Greece."

However, Bierhoff is well aware that overcoming the Azzurri will be far from straightforward given the progress made under Cesare Prandelli since their disastrous first-round exit at the 2010 World Cup.

"Scandals and turmoil galvanise the squad, increase motivation and take away pressure," he mused. "Compared to the 2010 World Cup, there's a fresher style of player.

"Prandelli is doing a good job. We must study Italy well. It will be a balanced and beautiful semi-final. However, we know that we can win."

Germany's clash with Italy on Thursday will get under way at 20:45CET.