BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) – Germany captain Philipp Lahm will be rooting for England in tonight's Euro 2012 quarter-final as he believes Italy would provide a sterner test in the semi-finals.
England have never beaten Germany at a major tournament, while Italy have always prevailed in the knock-out stages, and Lahm would rather face England next week.
"Whoever we meet, it is going to be a footballing classic," he said. "What more could you want than to meet such an opponent in the semi-final?
"I think Italy are a bit stronger, cleverer and tactically well-schooled and they are harder to beat.
"England have their class and they have changed their game a little to be more defensive now and it is not so easy to face either of them.
"I am looking forward to a classic. One thing is for sure, we are going to have to work hard to get through and we cannot presume we have won.
"But our overall aim is to win this tournament."
Germany have fond memories of their last game against England in a competitive match when they won 4-1 in Bloemfontein to reach the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup.
Their last game against Italy was not so satisfying, though, as they were knocked out in the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup in Dortmund against the eventual champions.
"Of course we think of those, they were our last important games against them," said Lahm.
"Sadly we lost to Italy, but I think we were not as far then as we are now.
"Against England, we played a very good game a few years ago and I am happy to look back at that.
"These games are in our minds when we think of these opponents.
"We know them both and they are difficult opponents, but I am sure they are not happy to face us."
Looking beyond England or Italy, Lahm is already preoccupied about the form of the side who ended their hopes of glory in both 2008 and 2010, and whom they could meet in the final.
Spain's 2-0 win over France last night confirmed to Lahm that they are still the favourites to win the championship and not, as team mate Marco Reus claimed yesterday, Germany.
"They are totally proving their quality," he said. "They are the team to beat."
"You see the way they played yesterday - that was impressive. France had practically no chance, above all in the first half - I am not sure if they even had the ball for more than two seconds.
"Therefore, they are still the team to beat."
Midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger continues to battle a long-standing ankle injury, but Lahm said he is "certain" his Bayern Munich team-mate will be able to play on Thursday.