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Thursday night's semi-final will see two world class keepers meet, both from different goalkeeping generations. Will the dynamic German outshine the Italian old guard?

Gianluigi Buffon set up a clash against Manuel Neuerin the semi-finals of the Euro 2012 after leading his side to victory over England after a nerve-racking penalty shoot-out was required to settle the tie.

Buffon got the better of Joe Hart as he held on to Ashley Cole’s weak effort after both Riccardo Montolivo and Ashley Young missed their spot kicks. Hart tried to get into the minds of the Italian kick-takers with various weird faces along with using his hands to make his presence felt, but was left flat on the floor after being continuously beaten, especially against Andrea Pirlo's "Panenka" kick.

Buffon’s heroics will see Italy lock horns with Germany and Neuer, who is regarded by the Italy number one as the “the best goalkeeper in the world”. Buffon hoped the two met in the final, continuing his message to Neuer with "Please don't take it badly, but I must win, I'm at the end of my career, you still have so much in front of you. I look forward to facing you."  

The 2006 World Cup winner is highly experienced and a commanding shot-stopper. The 34 year old still has his jaw-dropping reflexes, as seen against Glen Johnson’s shot from just six yards out, as Buffon plucked the ball form out of the air to keep the scores level. He is never spotted out of position and rarely seen making a mistake. The Italian is a phenomenal leader, not only in organizing his defense, but also in guiding his side.

Buffon saves Johnson's shot from close range

Manuel Neuer became Germany’s No.1 at the 2010 World Cup at only 24 years of age. Neuer is the model modern goalkeeper, as he is as comfortable with the ball at his feet as when he is when saving fierce shots. The Bayern man has swift reflexes and is a dynamic shot stopper. The German is eager to initiate counter-attacks and is known for his trademark long-throws.

Buffon has been caught out by crosses on seldom occasions and is fighting his age to remain as mobile as he once was. Neuer has worked hard on commanding his back four, but has a lot to learn from his Italian counterpart in doing so.

NEUER VS BUFFON
Club Statistics
2011/12

Club: Bayern Munich

Games: 59

Goals Conceded: 50

Clean Sheets: 29

Penalties saved(in game): 0


2011/12

Club: Juventus

Games: 44

Goals Conceded: 21

Clean Sheets: 24

Penalties saved(in game): 3

The two keepers are likely have an unchanged back four in front of their goals. With the only possible change for the Germans being Lars Bender filling in the right back position ahead of Jerome Boateng.

Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini has returned to training after a hamstring injury and could return to the starting line-up in place of his Juventus team-mate Leonardo Bonucci. Ignazio Abate picked up a muscle injury against England, but is likely to start as Christian Maggio faces a suspension.

If it goes to penalties

Apart from Buffon’s save against Ashley Cole in the quarter-finals of the tournament, the Italian has saved 3 penalties for Juventus this season, one of those saves won a point for his side in the Serie A as he didn’t allow Francesco Totti to score the winner for AS Roma.

Both keepers have faced penalty shoot-outs recently, with Neuer denying Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka to progress to the Champions League final. The final saw Chelsea lift the cup after penalties as Neuer’s sole penalty save against Juan Mata was outclassed by Petr Cech.

 Neuer kept out both Ronaldo and Kaka's spot kicks

Manuel Neuer and Gianluigi Buffon have both made 12 saves in their 4 games this tournament, but the rest of Italian’s figures are far superior as he has only conceded 2 goals, keeping 2 clean sheets and Neuer has conceded 4 goals and only managed a single clean sheet this tournament.

So who shall come out on top?

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