EURO 2012

Podolski determined to end Italy jinx

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Lukas Podolski says it is time for Germany to end their miserable record against Italy in tournament football.

Germany will go into Thursday's Euro 2012 semi-final having never beaten Italy in seven previous tournament matches.

The last of those was in the final four of the 2006 World Cup in Germany when the Italians scored twice in the dying minutes of extra time on their way to winning the tournament.

Joachim Low's men will start as favourites this time, though, having won their four games in Poland and Ukraine so far.

"It's the time to break that series," Podolski said in an interview with Bild newspaper.

"Since 2006 we have improved enormously. Today we have a whole different philosophy and a different team. The Italians also know that.

"One thing is clear - we want to be in the final, so we have to beat the Italians. Therefore, this will hopefully be the end for Italy in this European Championship."

Podolski was left out of the starting XI for the 4-2 quarter-final win over Greece, with the 21-year-old Andre Schurle preferred, but the Arsenal new boy's experience is expected to get him the nod against Italy.

Also set to play is midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, whom coach Low revealed is fully fit and ready to start the game.

The Bayern Munich player has been struggling with an ankle problem and Low admitted he was "poor" in the 4-2 quarter-final victory over Greece.

But Low said: "Schweinsteiger had problems, but it's not as if these were hindering him.

"Against Greece he was poor, but he realises that himself. Against Italy that won't happen.

"There are only 100 per cent fit players. No player will run out if he is only operating at 80 or 90 per cent capacity.

"All players are fit, I assume Schweinsteiger will play."

Italy scraped past England on penalties to reach the last four, although they were the better side over the 120 minutes, with midfielder Andrea Pirlo especially impressive.

But Low claimed he would not be asking anyone to man-mark the Juventus player.

"That would make no sense," he said.

Low admitted, though, the team his side will face on Thursday are a very different outfit from the one which failed to make it out of the group at the last World Cup.

"The Italians have a very different team from 2010 and excellent progress behind them," he added.

"They have good strengths, a lot of quality. But we also know where their weaknesses lie, where they have their problems.

"We have to bring our own game, not focus so much on the opponents. If we manage to do that, then we have a good chance."

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