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World Cup semi final preview - Germany v Italy

Goalkeeper:

Jens Lehmann has played well so far without really excelling, but proved his worth (and Arsenal form of last season) in the penalty shoot-out against Argentina and there is no Lehmann-Khan debate anymore. Although prone to the odd moment of madness, he is generally quite a cool character and an underated goalkeeper in my view.

Aided by his defence, Gianluigi Buffon has been near flawless in between the sticks for Italy so far, coming to his side's rescue when needed (as shown with a great save against Ukraine). A tendency to punch too often could lead to errors, but shows time and again why he is rated as amongst the elite in recent years.

Edge: Italy

Defence:

Not quite as tight as in previous years, the German defence has still looked fairly safe in the tournament with their full-backs impressing when joining in attack - Philip Lahm in particular supporting well down the left. Christina Metzelder is a strong centre-half but will be tested in this game by Luca Toni.

Italy have only condeded one goal (an own goal at that) in the tournament so far and impressed when down to ten men against Australia with Cannavaro an immense figure. Zambrotta and Grosso are capable of joining the attack also, but will feel the continued absence of Nesta if he is ruled out.

Edge: Italy

Midfield:

The real heart of the German side with Torsten Frings and Michael Ballack key. Frings plays the holding role superbly whilst Ballack will drive the team on. He should pass his fitness test which will be key. They are ably supported by the likes of Bernd Schneider and Bastian Schweinsteiger out wide.

Italy have lacked a world class midfield for some years now and tend to rely on 'scrappers' in this area. In this side Rino Gattuso and Simone Perrotta fill that role with Andrea Pirlo given some licence to get forward. Mauro Camoranesi may well also line-up to lend some creativity.

Edge: Germany

Strikers:

The under-rated Miroslav Klose will more than likely take home the Golden Boot award, and despite a low profile remains a dangerous scorer. He will be partnered up front by German golden-boy Lukas Podolski who looks more at home as the tournament progresses.

Italy struggled to find an attacking combination throughout the tournament, with Gilardino, Iaquinta and del Piero all seeing some action. They seem to have found the right combination in Totti and Toni however, with Toni finally getting on the scoresheet against Ukraine. Totti needs to step up and show his true talent though.

Edge: Germany

Coaching:

An old master versus a young pretender, as Lippi goes head to head with Klinsmann. Lippi has won every domestic honour during his time in the domestic game and has adapted well to the international game well. A calm figure and supportive of his players, he has Italy playing in a more open way than previous managers.

Klinsmann, derided before the tournament, has galvanised the squad to get this far in the tournament. Hs impressed with his substitutions and his attacking approach has paid off. Hard to know exactly how we will fare when the chips are down but has handled all situations well upto now.

Edge: Italy

X-factor:

Germany have momentum behind them following their shoot-out win over Argentina. Backed by the home crowd which will give them a big lift in the stadium, their big-game temperament and attitude has been proven time and time again.

Italy appear to have a united squad, brought together by the scandal in their domestic game and the tragic news regarding Gianluca Pessotto. Whilst not having hit their peak so far, they are progressing along nicely and maybe timing the run just right.

Edge: Germany

PREDICTION:

A tight game with not much to call between the sides. I see this going all the way to penalties after a 1-1 score at full-time with Germany to progress following the shoot-out.