Italy took England apart with a consummate display of passing brilliance in their Euro 2012 quarter-final in Kyiv, to book a semi-final clash against arch-rivals Germany this evening. The Azzurri have always been a reliable side at major international finals – this is their eleventh semi-final in either World Cups or European Championships since 1934.

Germany vs Italy is a classic of the international game, with such occasions as a semi-final at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, when Italy won an incredible match 4-3 in extra time (in Italy the match is known as “la partita de secolo” – the game of the century), standing alongside the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain, which saw Enzo Bearzot beat off Argentina, Brazil, Poland and finally Germany to claim the trophy. The most recent clash between Italy and Germany came at the 2006 World Cup the latter hosted. Italy triumphed, thanks to two extra time goals from Fabio Grosso and Alessandro Del Piero, booking a spot in the final against France.

The Euro 2012 clash this evening will see another chapter of the story written. Cesare Prandelli’s side are not typically Italian, having cast off the shackles of catennacio and defensive football, and chosen to play a positive, aggressive game.

In Poland/Ukraine, Italy produced a good performance in their opener against Spain and then carried that into the draw with Croatia – but on both occasions, the Azzurri could only control the game for 60 minutes and then conceded goals which eventually saw them finish second in Group C, despite beating Ireland. That did not prove to be a problem as Italy dominated their quarter-final against England, controlling the game for 120 minutes and winning a penalty shootout.

Against Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions, Italy controlled the midfield thanks to a superb display by Andrea Pirlo, also winning the battle on the wings where Ignazio Abate and Federico Balzaretti pushed Ashley Young and James Milner back. Defensively the Azzurri were perfect against the English, restricting their opponents to a few clear-cut opportunities.

Italy’s main issues lie in attack, where Mario Balotelli is failing to convert his chances and Antonio Cassano looks out of form. Antonio Di Natale and Sebastian Giovinco may be worthy replacements, but Prandelli has bet the house on Balotelli and Cassano and looks likely to give the duo the vote against Germany. In the England clash, Riccardo Montolivo played as a trequartisa, behind the forwards, while Alessandro Diamanti, who scored the decisive penalty, also looks in good shape.

What the Azzurri were happy with against England was ball possession, of which they enjoyed 68% compared to 32%. Prandelli will hope to replicate this and should field a 4-3-1-2 in the semi-final, going up against a 4-2-3-1 for the Germans.

Germany start the match as clear favourites, but Italy have belief and clear determination. “Now everything is possible”, Prandelli has told his side. “We were fantastic against the English and now we do not want to end our European campaign here.”