By Paolo Camedda
Italy will need to find the perfect balance between defence and attack if they are to beat Germany and progress to the Euro 2012 final, according to Gianluca Pagliuca.
The retired Azzurri goalkeeper told Goal.com that he anticipates a much stiffer test for Cesare Prandelli's side in Thursday's last-four clash than the one provided by England in the quarter-final.
Italy are in the semi-finals after beating England. How did you see the Azzurri in the quarter-finals in Kiev?
It was a good game, played well by Italy, who won on penalties solely because the English only wanted to defend.
Now there will be an epic challenge against Germany. What opinions do you have of Joachim Low's side?
I have always said that Germany were my favourites to win the tournament. The Germans are the most difficult opponent for Italy and have every advantage going into this game as we get two days less to prepare. That is why I maintain that Germany are favourites, even though Italy have a chance if they play to their potential.
What will it take for Italy to win this game?
It is improbable to see a match like the one against England, we will have to suffer more. To win Prandelli will [need to] strike the perfect balance between defence and attack. We will have fewer opportunities to score, because the Germans will not let us have as many shots as England did. The team, therefore, must be a bit smarter.
How do you see the duel between goalkeepers Gianluigi Buffon and Manuel Neuer?
I definitely see a big contest because Buffon and Neuer, along with [Iker] Casillas, are for me, at this time, the three best goalkeepers in the world. Both Gigi and Neuer are in great shape. Gigi, when under pressure, as in 2006, proved that he can bring out, in difficult times, the best of himself. Neuer is very young but has an impressive physical presence. He is also technically skilled and brave.
What is your prediction for Italy v Germany?
I had expected a draw and victory on penalties against England in the quarter-finals. This time it is not easy, but I want to hope: a draw and another extraordinary victory on penalties for Italy, but it will be much more difficult.