Germany v Italy: battle of hair, towers and two-wheelers

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Italy face Germany in the quarter finals of Euro 2016 on Saturday. Photo: Axel Heimken/Martin Bureau/AFP
17:49 CEST+02:00
Italy vs Germany is not only one of the greatest rivalries in international football – it's also a titanic clash of culture and cuisine. There can only be one winner, but who?

History would certainly suggest Italy will come out on top in the Euro 2016 quarter-final on Saturday.

Some Germans believe their country is cursed when it comes to facing the Azzurri and not without reason. Germany has never beaten Italy at a tournament in a run stretching back to the 1962 World Cup.

But are there other clues from which we can augur the eventual victor? Patrick Browne from The Local Italy and Jörg Luyken from The Local Germany fight their countries' corners.

Löw vs Conte

Spookily similar hair: Joachim Löw (L) and Antonio Conte (R). Photo/AFP

Patrick says: Joachim Löw has been Germany manager since 2006 – which is an eternity in modern football terms.

During that time he has guided them to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and finished second place in the 2008 European Championships.

In spite of his success, Löw enjoyed a fairly anonymous career as a player and manager before being named Germany coach but can boast a win rate of 66 percent with the national side.

Conte on the other hand scooped five league titles with Juventus as a player, and a further three as a manager between 2012-14.

Although he impressed with Juventus, they have been the only real contenders for the Italian league since 2011. Conte was also nothing but a flop when he took the Bianconeri to play in European competitions.

The Italy man has also had his copybook blotted by allegations of match-fixing and a post-playing career hair transplant, which he seems to have modeled on the Germany manager...

Jörg says: Löw is undoubtedly a dapper gent (although he too has had to fight off rumours that his wonderful mop is in fact a wig), but he's not as suave as some might believe.

His slurred accent and strange habit of pausing just before the end of a sentence make it sound like he could do with sleeping a bit more and agonizing a little less over the tactical set-up of his football team

Then there's his unappetizing habit of smelling the sweat from the innermost crevices of his body during matches.

But he has taken Die Mannschaft to at least the semifinal stage of every competition in which he's been in charge, which is no mean feat.

Conte on the other hand has just been hired by Chelsea FC, a club who have a reputation for hiring the best manager in the world before deciding a couple of months later that he's actually a bit rubbish.

Winner: Germany. At least Löw's barnet is real (maybe).

Spätzle vs pasta

Photos: David Adam Hess, Edsel Little, Sreebot/Flickr&Wikicommons

Patrick says: Spätzle aren't bad, but they can't compete with Pasta, surely?

There are hundreds, if not thousands of pasta shapes across Italy and while it's almost inconceivable to foreign visitors, each shape has been carefully crafted according to which types of sauce it's meant to be served with.

I'm no Spätzle expert. I've only ever seen two shapes of Spätzle (twisty and stringy) but as I understand it, they are served up willy-nilly across parts of Germany, sometimes being served as a side dish, which is almost an insult to real pasta!

Jörg says: Germans are actually very precious about how they eat Spätzle, preferring it to go with melted cheese and fried onions as a main dish, or as a side to roast meat with gravy on top.

When I told my local butcher recently that I mix it in with minced beef she almost had a heart attack.

But that is the joy of it, you can mix the south German egg noodles with literally anything and it’ll work. And it saves faffing around with an extra pan and boiling water. Just fry up whatever else you have in the fridge, chuck in Spätzle and some cream, and three minutes later you have an amazing meal!

Winner: Italy. Top marks for effort, Spätzle.

Beer vs Wine

Photo: LindseyG/Flickr

Patrick says: Italy makes wonderful wines, a whopping 74 of which have been assigned DOCG quality assurance labels by the EU.

From Pecorino and Prosecco to Chianti and Nero D'Avola, Italian wine is immensely quaffable, fantastically varied and more and more of it is being drunk worldwide as people wake up to its wonders.

Jörg says: German beer is largely constrained by a puritan law on how it is produced which is 500 years old this year.

This means that, while you live safe in the knowledge you’ll never be served up a Carling or a Tennants, you’ll never be exposed to the quixotic pleasures of a Bishops Finger either.

While its wines undoubtedly play second fiddle to its beers, Germany can still hold its own in the grape stakes too. The regions of Baden and Rhineland Palatinate make some delightful, refreshing Rieslings or aromatic Müller-Thurgau.

Winner: Germany. It might not have Italy's wine prestige, but at least it offers something for beer lovers!

Biggest Alps

Patrick says: Thanks to Italy's smallest region, the mountainous Val d'Aosta, Italy can lay claim to a number of the tallest peaks in the Alps.

In fact, the 4806-metre Monte Bianco (or as the French and English insist on calling it 'Mont Blanc') is Italian. Across northern Italy there are some 570 peaks over 2000 metres, compared to a paltry 25 in Germany.

Jörg says: Unfortunately there is no competition here. The German Alps are mere footnotes to the epic tale scrolled into the sky by the mighty Italian ridges.

But luckily Germany has mountains where it matters on Saturday. Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels - the two men at the centre of the German defence - sometimes seem like they are standing atop 'Monte Bianco' such is their ability to read the play going on in front of them.

Getting past them will be a harder feat for the Italian forward line than crossing the highest Alpine pass in the midst of winter.

Winner: Italy. The romantic poets didn't write anything about German centre-halves.

Bikes vs Vespas

Photo: Jean Piere Clatot/AFP

Patrick says: Germany claims to have invented the bicycle and yet it's hardly a national icon of Germany like the Vespa is to Italy.

Yes, it's admirable and noble that the Germans can boast the third highest bikes per capita figure in the world, but anyone who's ever been to Italy can tell you, cycling is not the best way to get around thanks to chaotic driving, lack of cycle-paths and the ancient streets of most town's historic centres.

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But these problems gave rise to the Vespa, which apart from being the perfect means of transport in urban landscapes not cut out for bicycles, has sold more than 16 million globally since 1946 and become a design icon in the process.

Also, Germany's chronic lack of Alpine passes, means avid German cyclists tend to spend their summers freewheeling through Italy's mountains anyway.

Jörg says: Germans like to see themselves as people with answers to the big questions of the future. And there are surely none greater than climate change, air pollution, and how to get drunk while doing exercise at the same time.

Even in a country so proud of its auto industry some firms have started providing company bikes to replace company cars. There are also plans in the pipeline for cycle Autobahns which could take 50,000 cars off the road.

Beer bikes might have been invented in Holland, but nowhere have they become as popular as in Germany, where you can drink and cycle at the same time with your boozed up pals in 34 different cities.

Winner: Italy. Germany's commitment to bikes is noble, but they are just nowhere near as cool as Vespas.  

Leaning tower of Pisa vs leaning tower of Suurhusen

A world record tilt: the leaning tower of Suurhusen. Photo: Edward Yanquen

Patrick says: Arguably Pisa is more famous for the novelty value of its towers 3.9 degrees tilt than anything else, which is actually quite sad.

It's irritating to see all the vendors selling tacky statues of the tower in the 'Field of Miracles' where it stands.

Don't even get me started on the hordes of tourists posing for idiotic photos where they pretend to be pushing up (or knocking down) the tower, which at the end of the day is just a freestanding bell tower for the nearby Cathedral.

Jörg says: Suurhusen isn’t famous for anything whatsoever - and would gladly take bus loads of tourists lining up for naff photo ops at its leaning church tower.

The medieval steeple is actually 1.22 degrees steeper than its Italian cousin, making it the tower with the biggest unintentional lean in the world, according to the Guinness World records.

Admittedly though its otherwise ordinary visage isn't likely to persuade tourists to frantically change their plans to visit the beautiful bell tower in Pisa.

Winner: Germany. You can see the Guinness World record leaning tower, without the throngs of tourists.

Verdict (Patrick and Jörg): We can agree to disagree on a lot of things, but in terms of sheer quality, this titanic battle went all the way down to the wire and finished as a dead heat.

If Saturday's match is anything like this, it's going to extra time and penalties....


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