Pirlo says Germany afraid of Italy

Italian playmaker Andrea Pirlo believes Euro 2012 semi-final opponents Germany are running scared ahead of their clash with Italy in Warsaw on Thursday.

Germany have never beaten Italy in a competitive match, losing three times and drawing as many in World Cup finals and European Championships.

They also met in a World Cup qualifier in 1962 with the game ending in a draw.

And Pirlo, 33, believes that history will give Italy the edge.

"Germany are definitely scared of us, they know we can create difficulties for them given what's happened in the past and they will have to be careful to avoid a repeat of what happened in 2006," said the Juventus midfielder.

The two sides met at the same stage of the World Cup in Germany six years ago and Italy won 2-0 - Pirlo's stunning pass setting up their first in the final stages of extra-time - before going on to beat France on penalties in the final.

Italy also triumphed over West Germany in the 1970 World Cup semi-final and the final in 1982.

While Italy came into the tournament in the midst of a crisis of form and confidence as well as surrounded by ugly match-fixing headlines, they have steadily improved during the competition.

And Pirlo believes they just need to continue playing the same way and success will come.

"We'll play in the same way because it's the only way we know. We'll try to have possession and make the most of our strengths.

"Germany play differently to England, they play (rather than just defend) and can create chances but we're ready, we've come here to win the Euros.

"We're strong in every department but it's not just been in this competition, it was the same in other years.

"It will be a great game and worthy of a semi-final."

Italy have always played after Germany throughout the tournament meaning they had the chance to watch their opponents' matches and Pirlo has been impressed with Mesut Ozil.

"We've seen all their games because they played before us so we were all in front of the television.

"They're a great team, in the last 20 years they've reached six semi-finals, they always go far.

"They're a great team but we've studied them.

"They have many great players but Ozil is very important both for Germany and Real Madrid.

"He's a great player and has proved that on the pitch."

That Italy have come this far is intriguing for a pair of reasons.

The first being their poor form in friendlies before the competition as they had lost three games in a row, including a 3-0 defeat to Russia on June 1 in Zurich.

The second reason being the Calcioscommesse football-betting scandal back home.

The last two times Italy have won a major international competition, the World Cups in 1982 and 2006, they did so following domestic match-fixing scandals.

Few people gave them a chance of going all the way when they turned up in Poland but history is on the brink of repeating itself.

And Pirlo says the team always felt they were capable of achieving great things.

"That defeat to Russia did us good, it put our feet on the ground and we understood that we had a lot of work to do to have a good Euros," he said.

"As soon as we got here we realised that we could do well, we've got the right spirit and desire, we take one game after another and we're always improving.

"Now we're in the last four but we still haven't done anything."

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