On Thursday evening, Germany will take on host nation France in a Euro 2016 semifinal. Despite only conceding one goal in five games, the Germans didn’t always look certain to advance. Indeed, it took nine rounds of penalties for the reigning world champions to advance, and that’s after a second-half penalty (dispatched by Leonardo Bonucci) leveled the score for Italy.
However, in the shootout, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer did what he does best: out-crazy his opponent.
The Bayern Munich shotstopper learned his lesson from Bonucci’s first strike, and pulled off a dramatic save the second time around.
In the 78th minute, Leonardo Bonucci prepares to take the penalty as Manuel Neuer does his best to look big.
Bonucci starts his approach aggressively. He then slows dramatically by stamping his right foot into the ground in an effort to fool the goalkeeper. Neuer bites on spots Neuer’s early departure.
The Italian defender resumes his approach as Neuer attempts to correct his mistake. However, he now has all his weight on his right foot AND is leaning the wrong way, thereby limiting his ability to quickly react to Bonucci’s strike.
Neuer does well to dive to his left, but Bonucci’s penalty is too well taken and his faint was too well sold. Italy equalizes and 42 minutes later we head for penalties.
With the shootout tied 2-2 (both teams having missed two penalties each), Bonucci begins his approach. Neuer again attempts to make himself look big by bouncing on his line.
Once again, Bonucci dramatically slows his run and looks to see if the tactic has fooled Neuer for a second time.
Ever the clever gentleman, Neuer has anticipated this move. Thus, as Bonucci tries to read the goalkeeper, the German flinches ever so slightly to his left. Bonucci takes this as a sign that Neuer has once again bit on the fake, and now aims to his left/Neuer’s right.
As Bonucci hits the ball, Neuer dives to his right.
Neuer dives low and gets a strong right hand to the strike. The save sets up a game-winning opportunity for Bastian Schweinsteiger, who skies his take. Nevertheless, four rounds later, Italian winger Matteo Darmian shoots wide and Germany advance to the Euro 2016 semifinals.
Were it not for the quick thinking of Manuel Neuer, who also out-thought Graziano Pelle, Germany might already be home watching the semifinals and pondering what could have been.