Felix Magath has claimed that Germany lost to Italy in the Euro semi-final because they lacked fighting spirit and commitment going into the game
Felix Magath, who looks much like Gene Hackman in the Hollywood flick Enemy of the State, has claimed that Germany lacked fighting spirit in their Euro 2012 semi-final clash against Italy. The Wolfsburg manager has hit out at the German squad, citing that they did not have the right frame of mind going into the semi-final and that the Italians, who had a much higher passion and commitment to the game, deserved the win. The 58-year-old former German international has stated that he could clearly see the lack of fighting spirit among the Germans even before the match, and that this led to their 2-1 defeat to the passionate Azzurri.
To strengthen his claim, the Wolfsburg boss has written in his Welt.de column that the way the two teams sang their respective national anthems was an indicator of the forthcoming result. He wrote:
"Actually the semi-final between Italy and Germany was decided before the kick-off. When you look at how passionately the Italians sang their anthem, you can see the will that they showed in the next 95 minutes. This willingness to give everything, this devotion I didn't see with Germany. And it hurts because our team has the quality to become European champions. And I have to say, the ability to play was there, just not the mentality."
He continued: "What was missing was the right approach, the mentality of champions, the body language of a Mario Balotelli who only thought one thing: How I will score a goal."
"In a game like this between two equal teams, the winner is the team that shows more commitment, more aggressive in the challenge not the team that plays the prettier football. The Italians showed us how to play a semi-final, ambitious, greedy and confident - not disorderly like our eleven."(sic)
While Magath seemed to be bitterly disappointed by the body language shown by the Germans, he seemed to be all praise for the Azzurri, especially Mario Balotelli, who, according to Magath, just wanted it more. He cites this hunger to win as the reason behind their success en route to the final.
Come to think of it, Magath is quite right, at least on the anthem part. The Germans did not seem particularly proud of their anthem when they sang it, but rather, seemed quite indifferent to it. The Italians, on the other hand, screamed out their passion when the anthem played. Buffon's voice was, in fact, quite strongly audible when the camera that panned over the playing eleven paused on him. Such passion does, indirectly, instil a sense of patriotic commitment that could make or break an important fixture. The Italians were confident and pumped up right from the moment they stepped onto the field and they clearly showed their will to proceed to the final. The devotion that Magath referred to was a part of the Italian psyche while going into the game, and this reflected in their play. Despite initial scares, Italy never reached a point in the entire match from which they could not recover. In fact, as it stands, Italy used the German attack to their advantage, hitting them on the break.
Germany, 'favourites' to win the title, never got a grip on the game after the first few minutes. When Balotelli headed in the first goal, Germany seemed to have lost everything. This was the first time in Euro 2012 that Germany had not scored first. So, when confronted with an unknown devil, their experience, rather the lack of it, manifested itself vividly. The squad, now bewildered, could never recover from this uninhabited territory, and allowed the Azzurri to break them up even further. This lack of 'fighting spirit' deeply disturbs Magath, who insists that the previous German sides would never have allowed themselves to fall down. A comeback should have been inevitable, but it wasn't to be. The Germans were psychologically beaten, and the stoppage-time penalty by playmaker Ozil only served to console a bruised nation.
So, when Magath claims that the reason for the loss is actually not lack of quality, but rather commitment and aggression, I am bound to agree. Psychology, however trivial it may seem, cannot be discounted. When two teams of the stature of Germany and Italy vie for a berth in the final, pure talent and skill are, at times, not capable enough to decide a winner. The right approach, positive body language and the mentality of champions are all necessary in the perfect mix to produce a wondrous display of deserving competence. As Magath has rightly cited, Germany did have the necessary tools to see off 'underdogs' Italy, but what they did not have was the "body language of Mario Balotelli".
Italy, who were not even pipped to be in the finals of Euro 2012, overcame all obstacles, be it the Scommessopoli scandal or the tough clashes against Spain, England and Germany. The right attitude and the hunger to win brought them to Kiev for the final. Deep crevices in their economy, huge outstanding loans, worrisome budget deficits and even large-scale unemployment in their homeland could have deterred even the best of competitors, but Italy came out of all unscathed.
At the end of the day, psychological prowess turned out to be the decider of the match. Felix Magath has nailed his point perfectly. Germany did lack the fire to give it all. The 'fighting spirit' was despondently insufficient. I, for one, agree with Magath. What do you think?