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Possession, patience key to Germany unlocking Italy

The heavyweight quarterfinal matchup of the 2016 Euros is Italy against Germany. Germany are supposed to be here. They're the current World Cup holders and a dominant force in European soccer. Italy, on the other hand, have far exceeded expectations. The traditional powerhouse is dealing with a downturn in talent which was supposed to keep it from being a major factor at this tournament. But, thanks to a rigorous and unconventional tactical system implemented by manager Antonio Conte, Italy have signature wins over Belgium in the group stage and Spain in the round of 16. Now, all of a sudden, Italy aren't an afterthought -- they're a contender.

The question that will likely decide the match is how Germany adapt to deal with Italy's distinct style. Conte's team relies on playing three central defenders and two wing backs, a departure from most teams' traditional back fours. But despite Italy's somewhat stodgy reputation, this version of the team is not at all conservative. They press opponents high up the field and contest possession in all areas. In the first half against Spain, Italy only narrowly lost the possession battle, having 48.6 percent of the ball, a mark almost unheard of against the Spanish possession machine. It was only in the second half, as the Italians protected their lead, that Spain began to hold possession of the ball -- and even then they rarely did anything dangerous with it.