Germany fall short because of a blunt attack and defensive mistakes

At a glance

Disappointment outweighs the world champions' good tournament, which ended in the semifinals against the hosts but, still, they can leave the Euro with their heads held high.


It was close to midnight local time when Jonas Hector put his penalty under the great Gianluigi Buffon to end the German trauma of never beating Italy at a major tournament. The quarterfinal saw the longest shootout in the history of the European Championship, and Cologne full-back Hector emerged as the unlikely hero.

Earlier, Germany had been 1-0 up and cruising when Jerome Boateng played the ball with his hand when all he wanted to do was to signal to referee Viktor Kassai that he was not out to foul his opponent. Leonardo Bonucci converted the penalty and an intense match, which featured Joachim Low tweaking his staring formation to counter Italy's style, took another twist.

No goals were scored in extra-time and then, one at a time, stars of world football walked up to the spot, and missed: Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger for Germany; Simone Zaza, Graziano Pelle, Bonucci and, finally, Matteo Darmian for Italy. Germany's curse was lifted.

Low point

Two years ago, Mario Gotze had the world at his feet. Aged 22, the forward scored the goal that won a fourth World Cup for Germany. Things have dramatically changed since then. Gotze, once hailed as one of the world's biggest talents, is now an outcast at Bayern Munich and, during the Euros, even his mentor Low lost faith.

Gotze started each of Germany's three group-stage games but was substituted after 55 minutes of the third against Northern Ireland, having wasted two good chances. He did not play against Italy and then, when he was brought on against France, Germany conceded the second goal a minute later. In 27 minutes on the pitch, Gotze touched the ball seven times and looked robbed of everything that everyone once saw in him.

Star man

Even during his time as a somewhat clumsy right-back at Manchester City, you could always see the enormous talent the Jerome Boateng had. In late 2012, by now with Bayern, things finally fell into place as he began to live up to the hope people put into him.

Having shaken off criticism by German far-right politicians before Euro 2016 began, Boateng grew into a natural leader role on and off the pitch. A spectacular clearance off the line against Ukraine was followed by a fine volley vs. Slovakia, as well as consistent defending, high pressing and spectacular passes across the field.

When he limped off, injured and battle weary against France, Germany's tournament effectively ended. Boateng sat on the bench, a towel over his head, defeated and disillusioned. But in his eyes, hidden behind a stare into the void, you could see his hunger for more and his desire to make this team his team.

Lessons learned

In a match that came down to the smallest detail, Germany had a thousand spoons when all they needed was a knife to cut open the French defense. After a long and draining season, they were edgeless in attack in the semifinal, unable to get behind the last line and create dangerous situations.

All the possession they had -- their overall mark of 63.1 percent led the tournament -- and all the territorial dominance was worth nothing in the crunch match as a handful of mistakes at the back and no options in attack, because of Low's unwillingness to load pressure on Leroy Sane, were too much to overcome.

A discussion about the lack of classic forwards has already begun. Another, regarding the lack of acknowledgement that they were beaten by a superior side with a better plan and a deeper squad, is much needed.