Hummels wary of Pirlo, Balotelli and Cassano threat

The Mannschaft and Borussia Dortmund defender has pinpointed the Azzurri's three key players who could derail his country's hopes of success at the European Championship

Germany defender Mats Hummels has urged his teammates to keep a close eye on Italy's three pivotal figures Andrea Pirlo, Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano in Thursday's Euro 2012 semi-final clash.

The 23-year-old admitted that he did not foresee the Azzurri doing a great deal at the Euros before the tournament started, but conceded Cesare Prandelli's men are proving him wrong now and look every bit as strong as Germany.

Having already faced two of the most in-form attackers during the club season in the group stage, Hummels believes that Italy's two frontmen Balotelli and Cassano are up there with some of the best forwards in Poland and Ukraine.

"There is no doubt that they are top-class strikers,” Hummels noted on “[They are] up in the same league as the likes of [Robin] van Persie, Nani, or [Cristiano] Ronaldo.

“We’ll be prepared, approaching the game with the same concentration as always. We’re not afraid.

“We must play as intelligently as possible, with the whole team putting pressure on their creative midfielders, denying them the space they want, and preventing them from gaining the upper hand.

“We’ll be meeting an opponent who’s absolutely on a par with us in terms of everything. In fact, I think they were superior to Spain in their group match and just got better and better.

The Borussia Dortmund defender has had an impressive tournament for the Mannschaft and his confidence is sky-high, with much thanks owed to the praise of Hummels’ idol Zinedine Zidane, as well as a one-on-one with his coach.

"In a word – I’m on a roll, and I’m very happy to have been able to do my bit for the team’s success," Hummels said.

“There’s little more you could wish for at the moment. Joachim Low told me in a private talk that he’s very satisfied with the job I’ve been doing, and obviously that has worked wonders for my self-confidence.

“For Zidane to say he’s impressed – well, that’s the greatest compliment! He was my role model, I just loved to see him play, and I used to try and imitate his moves when I was young. I think he was by far the best footballer of his generation."

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