Ignazio Abate’s first Italy goal secured a 1-1 friendly draw with Germany, though the visitors hit the woodwork three times at San Siro.
The Azzurri were unbeaten against Germany since 1995, though all seven defeats were in friendlies. Giuseppe Rossi was out with flu symptoms, so Dani Osvaldo partnered Mario Balotelli and Mimmo Criscito made his comeback over a year after his last cap. Joachim Löw marked his 100th game without Mario Gomez, Miroslav Klose and Per Mertesacker, while Mesut Özil was only fit for the bench.
Italy had won only one friendly over the last two years and that was against San Marino, so it was hoped this big test, the San Siro atmosphere and the build-up to the World Cup could inspire a change in that trend. Balotelli scored a brace against Germany in the Euro 2012 semi-final and here fired wide after 45 seconds, while moments later Andrea Pirlo’s free kick was over the bar in a very aggressive start.
However, Germany took the lead with their first chance of the game. Mats Hummels rose to meet a corner, his header ricocheting in off the inside of the far post. This goal confirmed Italy’s problems dealing with an aerial threat.
Moments later Benedikt Höwedes again got his head to a corner, but this time it was just wide, as Cesare Prandelli’s men seemed to be sapped of all confidence. Sami Khedira went even closer, as his sudden snapshot from distance thumped the upright and bounced off the back of Buffon’s head.
Italy equalised with an unexpected goalscorer, albeit one accustomed to playing for Milan in this stadium. Ignazio Abate intercepted a Hummels clearance, exchanged passes with Leonardo Bonucci to burst into the box and his left-foot angled drive went in off the base of the far post. It was the full-back’s first ever senior Italy goal.
The Azzurri risked giving the lead away again, though, as a terrible clearance was straight at Andreas Schurrle, whose dipping strike cannoned off the bar.
Balotelli was furious with the referee when Hummels blatantly pulled his jersey on the counter, but play was waved on.
After the restart Pirlo took a free kick short for Claudio Marchisio, but Manuel Neuer beat away the strike that was heading in at the near post. A sliding tackle prevented Criscito’s through ball from reaching Balotelli and Riccardo Montolivo got it trapped under his feet as Germany scrambled clear in the six-yard box.
Thiago Motta’s header was deflected over the bar from a smart Criscito volleyed assist down the left. Khedira picked up a knee injury while fouling Pirlo and had to be helped off the field, while Andrea Barzagli also had a muscular problem.
It may have been a friendly, but a scuffle broke out on 81 minutes when Thiago Motta was repeatedly tripped. The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder responded by shoving his finger in the face of Toni Kroos and both were booked after being pulled apart.
In the final minute, Buffon acrobatically plucked a Bonucci defensive header out of the air, preventing a corner or worse.
Deep into stoppages, Howedes hit the upright and Italy were fortunate Bender and Reus crashed into each other trying to get the follow-up into an empty net.
Italy 1-1 Germany
Scorers: Hummels 8 (G), Abate 28 (I)
Italy: Buffon; Abate, Bonucci, Barzagli (Ogbonna 70), Criscito; Marchisio, Pirlo (Cerci 82), Thiago Motta; Montolivo; Balotelli, Osvaldo (Candreva 52)
Germany: Neuer; Lahm, J Boateng, Hummels, Höwedes; Khedira (S Bender 67), Jansen; T Muller (L Bender 86), Kroos, Schurrle (Özil 59); Götze (Reus 59)
Ref: Benquerença (POR)