By Kelvin YapFollow @@plevyakin
Coming into the match, Cesare Prandelli had little choice but to play 4-3-1-2 after their only practiced right wingback Christian Maggio picked up a suspension in the win against England.
Knowing that Italy are definitely going to pack the midfield, Joachim Low decided to match the Azzurri in the middle, choosing to start three central midfielders in Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger in the much-lauded 4-2-3-1.
More significantly, Low had to devise a strategy to stop Andrea Pirlo after his masterclass against England (despite saying before the game that ‘man-marking Pirlo is a waste of time'), putting Kroos in the forward midfield line, pushing Mesut Ozil out wide and handing Kroos the task of harrying Pirlo into his own half, which gave Germany a rather less fluid shape than they had in the group stage.
Therein laid Low's biggest mistake - he was myopic in failing to see the big picture after concentrating on a small (albeit important) detail.
Low forgot about Italy's false nine
Both Italy's goals stemmed from a certain naive oversight from the defensive aspect of Germany's game.
From the start of Euro 2012, we've witnessed Antonio Cassano's movements as a false nine (drifting around as an auxiliary winger/trequartista to create two-on-one situations with his team mates) and his intelligence work out for the Azzurri.
However, he seemed to be forgotten by Low in this game and Die Mannschaft were made to pay for it.
For the first goal, Mats Hummels followed Cassano out to the Italian left flank - a logical move, considering that Giorgio Chiellini was there to support the attack. The ideal situation thereafter would have been for Hummels to pressure Cassano out towards the corner flag and use Jerome Boateng and Sami Khedira's presence to win the ball back.
However, despite having the help of two team mates, Hummels committed his tackle too early, ceding the space behind him for Cassano to cross in and Mario Balotelli to finish.
In the first place, most teams choose to let their defensive midfielder (in this case, Khedira) pick up Cassano's stray runs to the wide areas, allowing an extra body in the box to deal with his crosses or shots.
To make things worse, the move originated from a certain Pirlo, who had the trio of Lukas Podolski, Kroos and Ozil all ludicrously forgetting their roles and standing off him, allowing the Juve man the space to ping a cross for Chiellini to set up Cassano.
For the second goal, Hummels was inside the Italy half marking Cassano, who dropped deep (as usual) to link up quickly in case of a counter attack, but the Germany back line did not realise that Balotelli was cutting into the space between Hummels and Lahm.
Again, Cassano was the one who created space as a false nine for Balotelli to exploit. Again, Germany failed to realise that Cassano was equally, if not as, dangerous a weapon for Prandelli to use as Pirlo.
Not to discredit the brilliant pass from Riccardo Montolivo and Balotelli's excellent control and finish as well - it only served to show the excellent technique that the Italian possess in their side. From a tactical point of view, Cassano was as much a vital asset in creating the chance.
In brief summary - Pirlo used the time and space he was eventually given by Kroos well, but Cassano is the unsung hero for the Azzurri here.
Ozil is not an inverted winger
In terms of the German attack, Kroos and Khedira in particular did well to play as 'pivotes' high up the pitch, recycling the ball from the middle to the right flank very quickly, where Germany concentrated most of their attacks.
Naturally, the right flank was the choice area for Germany to exploit as Chiellini is inexperienced as a true left back (he usually plays as the left defender in a three-man defence).
However, playing Ozil as an inverted winger there was a wrong move from Low.
An inverted winger's role is primarily to 1) cut inside of the full back to twist him out of position 2) drag the full back wide to create space.
Ozil met with obstacles under each of the above mentioned circumstances.
First, Chiellini's discomfort at the position left him tucking in too close to Bonucci. While this conceded much space on the outside, it also meant Ozil couldn't cut inside of Chiellini to cause trouble.
And because of his left-leggedness, Ozil found it hard to shape a pass into the box for Gomez using his favoured leg. He had to either use the outside of his left boot or his right leg to do so - both of which couldn't quite generate enough power nor accuracy to beat the mean Italian defence.
Second, while he is a brilliant playmaker and uses space well, Ozil was trapped in a defined space (the bylines) down the flank. This means that Chiellini could always just show him outside towards the corner flag and the Real Madrid man was unable to get a cross away with his left leg.
In the end, Ozil was constantly cutting back up the flank for Khedira to use the space for a shot on goal, which led to another disadvantage for Germany as Khedira then played a lot higher up despite being a holding midfielder and his absence was sorely felt when Italy counter attacked.
This led to an unusual statistic where Khedira and Schweinsteiger (Germany's two DMs) managed zero tackles or interceptions between them in the first half.
Furthermore, the second Italy goal could have also been prevented if Khedira was in his usual position as a right holding midfielder - he would have been near Montolivo when the Italian launched the ball across upfield for Balotelli.
In the second half, Germany began to attack down the same flank but looked much more dangerous after Marco Reus was brought on and shifted down the same wing.
Reus did what Ozil could not - he pulled Chiellini wide and stretched the play horizontally for Germany; the men in white certainly looked more dangerous after the break, but were denied by a string of fine saves from Gianluigi Buffon.
A warning for Spain
Despite both of their goals coming from ‘run and gun' situations, Italy were far from the counter-attacking side stereotypes made them out to be.
Against Germany, their efficient passing game represented a somewhat faster and more lethal version of Spain's ‘tiki-taka' style.
Whenever Italy had the ball in the middle of the pitch, nobody except for Cassano and Pirlo had more than three touches of the ball. This facilitates a very fast passing rhythm which utilised the extra man the Azzurri had in the middle to bypass the cluttered midfield area into the Germany box very quickly, allowing the Germans little time to react as the ball swept past them.
If not for some wasteful finishing, Italy could easily have won by a larger margin.
This shows a very deep understanding between Italy's players to be able to find each other this way - as their final opponents Spain would know very well.
Looking at both side's performance in the semi-finals, Italy certainly look the more threatening side going forward.
In theory, Low had the idea right - stop Pirlo, press Italy high, win the ball early and attack fast.
However, he did so by compromising the original shape of his side, disrupting the lineup that had everyone label them as the strongest side in the competition.
It's interesting to note that of the five teams Italy faced, Germany are the third ones to change their usual shape going up against the Azzurri (following Spain and Croatia); the other two who stuck to their shape were England and Ireland, who couldn't hope to match Italy like for like in terms of quality on the pitch.
It goes on to prove that half the battle is won when you can make you opponent abandon their best gameplan and adapt an unfamiliar style of play.
Prandelli's Italy played to their strengths, Low's Germany played to Italy's strengths.
Logically, Italy won.
For more tactical insights and updates, you can follow Kelvin's Twitter account @plevyakin