[Euro U21] Casiraghi expects
With a place in the final of the 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship at stake, they take their rivalry to a new level in Helsingborg on Friday night.
Italy defeated Germany in the 1982 FIFA World Cup final and in the semi-finals in 1970 and 2006. This game, though, means more to Azzurrini coach Pierluigi Casiraghi than any preceding ones.
"There have been a few important matches between Italy and Germany, but this will be the one I remember most," the 40-year-old said.
The same applies to both sets of players as they look to leave their mark on a competition Italy have dominated. The Azzurrini have won five of their eight previous semi-finals and the championship a record five times.
They should also feel at home as they strive to add to that tally, having been based in Helsingborg and played all three Group A games at the Olympia Stadium.
After two wins and a draw, Casiraghi wants more of the same. "We must have the same approach, the same mentality," he said.
Casiraghi, though, must make changes from the side that beat Belarus on Tuesday to claim top spot in the group.
Striker Mario Balotelli returns from suspension – "I expect much of him because he can give so much" – but central midfielders Claudio Marchisio (suspended) and Paolo De Ceglie (injured) are unavailable.
Antonio Candreva and Daniele Dessena are expected to replace them, with Casiraghi openly concerned about how the alterations to the heart of his midfield might effect the team's balance.
After losing 1-0 to Germany in a November friendly in Osnabruck, he is also wary of the opposition.
"They have an international outlook and quality players like Mesut Ozil, Ashkan Dejagah and Marko Marin who can make the difference," he said.
"It's a good mix of tactical awareness and the German mentality, combined with the quality and creativity of second-generation players."
Mario Balotelli, Salvatore Bocchetti, Andrea Consigli, Marco Motta and Francesco Pisano would miss a possible final should they get cautioned against the Germans.
Germany progressed as Group B runners-up without fully hitting their stride, and coach Horst Hrubesch believes the best is yet to come from his charges.
"We haven't shown everything up to now, only in patches," he said. "We're optimistic that we'll show our full potential against Italy.
"They are strong but we'll focus on our own qualities and believe we'll win."
Germany have never won this competition and this generation is hungry for success. "This team is ready to work and eat dirt if necessary," he promised.
"There is a good spirit and the players have grown together during the tournament. We want to win and have the right mentality."
England play hosts Sweden in Gothenburg in the first semi-final tie.
[UEFA Euro U21 Championships 2009]