- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 26, 2012

GDANSK, Poland — Miroslav Klose remembers how Andrea Pirlo broke German hearts with a pass that led to his team’s elimination from the 2006 World Cup semifinals at home.

With two minutes remaining in extra time, Pirlo’s pass found Fabio Grosso, and he scored the first of a pair of late goals that meant Germany would be denied a shot at the title on home soil.

Instead, it was Italy that went on to defeat France 5-3 on penalty kicks for its fourth World Cup title.

“I remember well Pirlo’s pass and Grosso’s shot inside the far post,” said Klose, who was by then on the bench, having been substituted.

Klose, who now plays in Italy for Lazio, said that German loss was too far back to still play a role when the two sides face each other again in the European Championship semifinals Thursday in Warsaw.

“That was six years ago, we’ve had time to digest it,” Klose said. “We both have some players remaining, but we are both different sides now.”

Pirlo, though, seems just as effective.

The Germans are eager to break a jinx — they have never beaten Italy in a major tournament in seven attempts — and the key to that will be stopping the playmaker from delivering the decisive passes or scoring,

At 33, Pirlo has proved that he still is in his prime. He led Juventus to an undefeated Serie A season and the Italian title last month, a year after AC Milan gave up on him.

In all, Pirlo hasn’t lost a Serie A match since Dec. 18, 2010, having also gone the second half of the 2010-11 season undefeated with Milan. With him in charge, Italy also is undefeated in competitive matches over the past two years — having compiled 10 wins and four draws since its first-round exit from the 2010 World Cup.

“I’m nearly at the end of my career. I might not experience the emotions of matches like this anymore, so I want to fully enjoy it,” Pirlo said Tuesday in Krakow, the Italian base.

He said Italy’s players have studied footage of Germany’s matches and are aware that Mesut Oezil is the focus of the Germans’ play.

Italy is strong in all areas, just like they are,” Pirlo said. “It’s going to be a great semifinal. We’ve got to try and take possession of the ball, even though that’s one of their characteristics too.”

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