| KRAKOW, Poland, June 27
KRAKOW, Poland, June 27 Bastian Schweinsteiger
is winning his battle to be fit for Thursday's Euro 2012
semi-final against Italy where the relentless midfielder will
have to nullify the mercurial Andrea Pirlo if Germany are to end
The Germans have never beaten Italy at a major championship,
famously losing the 2006 World Cup semi-final on home soil to
the eventual victors, but they are favourites to progress this
time having won all four matches so far in Poland and Ukraine.
However, they have yet to come up against a midfielder with
the class of Pirlo, who has scored or set up all Italy's goals
here and produced a wonderful display in the quarter-final with
England before scoring the cheekiest of penalties.
The dinked spot kick in the shootout showed the 33-year-old
is far from over the hill as some had wondered and instead is
revelling in a confident spell of form which pundits already
think could lead him to be named player of the tournament.
"Pirlo's penalty even surprised me," Italy coach Cesare
Prandelli told reporters. "Then when he said that he took it
like that to put pressure on the English I realised that there
is always something to learn from champions like him."
If anyone can stop his raking passes in Warsaw, it is the
dynamic Schweinsteiger, who seems to cover every blade of grass
and epitomises Germany's youthful yet experienced side of
Schweinsteiger suffered an ankle injury in February and it
is still hampering his movement but the team is hopeful he can
play after missing two days of training to rest.
"Bastian is a world class player and he is a leading player
in our team," said playmaker Mesut Ozil. "I hope he can be fit
in time for the game."
Otherwise Germany are fully fit and at full strength with
coach Joachim Loew widely expected to bring back at least two of
the front three he surprisingly rested in the 4-2 quarter-final
win over Greece.
Main striker Mario Gomez is likely to come back in for
Miroslav Klose given his extra bulk against a wily Italian
defence while Lukas Podolski and Thomas Mueller will also be
hoping for recalls.
Italy centre half Giorgio Chiellini is back in training
after missing the England game with a thigh problem and could
feature while Prandelli has niggles to Daniele De Rossi and
Ignazio Abate to worry about and right back Christian Maggio's
Italy created reams of chances in the goalless 120 minutes
against England and their lack of a finishing touch will haunt
them if it continues in the Polish capital.
Prandelli seems to be leaning towards giving Mario Balotelli
another chance despite his quarter-final misses.
"Mario was always in the moves that counted," the coach said
while acknowledging Germany were favourites to join Spain and
Portugal in the July 1 final in Kiev.
"They are some years ahead of us. After the 2006 World Cup
they focused on youth and now they have a great squad."
(Editing by Justin Palmer)