- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2016

EVIAN-LES-BAINS, Germany (AP) - Jerome Boateng has been a central figure in Germany’s advance to the quarterfinals of the European Championship without conceding a goal, so it’s a huge relief for his team that a calf injury won’t keep him out of Saturday’s quarterfinal against Italy.

Boateng has helped set the tone for his side at Euro 2016 - at both ends of the field.

It all started with a spectacular goal-line clearance against Ukraine when Germany was only 1-0 up. Germany went on to win the match 2-0 but it could have all been so different had Ukraine got on level terms.

Boateng then helped contain his Bayern Munich teammate Robert Lewandowski in the scoreless draw with Poland, and marshalled the backline in the 1-0 victory over Northern Ireland in the final group game.

Boateng’s defensive strengths are well-chronicled.

What’s not is his scoring prowess.

But against Slovakia in the round of 16, the 27-year-old central defender gave his side’s misfiring attack a helping hand by opening the scoring with his first international goal in 63 appearances.

Boateng has been spoken of as a potential player of the tournament. He’s not convinced.

“Sure, a defender can also score a goal or play a good game, but I think it will always stay like that that, the offensive players are more in focus,” he said Thursday at the team’s tournament base in Evian-les-Bains.

There have been some concerns that a calf injury would mean he miss the encounter with Italy.

“The calf is very well and good for Saturday,” he said.

Boateng’s participation in Euro 2016 had been in doubt earlier this year after he suffered a muscle injury to his left leg in January.

The long layoff, though, has clearly not been a hindrance.

Boateng insists that he won’t change the way he plays even though another yellow card would see him suspended from any potential semifinal against either France or Iceland.

“I’ll go in like I always go in,” he said.

Boateng’s inspired performances at Euro 2016 have come just weeks after he found himself in the middle of a racism controversy off the field.

A top member of a rising German nationalist party reportedly told a national newspaper that many people wouldn’t want to live next to Boateng, who was born in Berlin to a father from Ghana.

The remarks drew widespread protests and prompted fans to unfurl a banner reading “Jerome be our neighbor!” at Germany’s friendly against Slovakia last month.

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