If you cannot beat them, join them. Germany manager Joachim Low paid homage to that adage - and respect to Italy - by matching the Azzurri's 3-5-2 formation in their quarter-final clash.
The result? Die Mannschaft got the better of Italy at a major tournament for the first time in nine attempts.
And it was defender Jonas Hector - employed as a wingback at the Stade de Bordeaux - who buried the final penalty in the shootout.
It took sudden death spotkicks to separate two sides that cancelled each other out on Saturday, with a record 18 penalties taken in the shootout.
Germany took the lead in the 65th minute following good work from Mario Gomez on the left flank. The striker slipped a pass through to Hector. His deflected cross found Mesut Ozil, who fired past Gianluigi Buffon.
But Italy equalised in the 78th minute through Leonardo Bonucci from the spot after Alessandro Florenzi's cross struck the arm of Jerome Boateng.
The first penalty of Bonucci's professional career was memorable. His second not so much. The 29-year-old's spotkick in the shootout was saved by Manuel Neuer.
He was not alone in his failure to convert from 12 yards out. Team-mates Simeone Zaza, Graziano Pelle, and Matteo Darmian will also have sleepless nights.
Germany's Thomas Muller (saved), Ozil (missed) and Bastian Schweinsteiger (missed) were indebted to Toni Kroos, Julian Draxler, Mats Hummels, Joshua Kimmich, Boateng and Hector.
Midfielder Draxler was on as a substitute despite being named man-of-the-match in their 3-0 last-16 victory over Slovakia. He made way in the starting XI as Low went for a more defensive shape. It paid off.
- In the 27th minute, substitute Schweinsteiger headed Hummels' cross into the net. But the goal was disallowed for a push on De Sciglio .
- Four minutes later, Marco Parolo played a crossfield pass. Kimmich misjudged the flight of the ball and De Sciglio got in behind the Germany defence. The wing-back's low cross into the box for Emanuele Giaccherini was crucially intercepted by Boateng.
- In the 42nd minute, Hector pulled the ball back to the edge of the box and Kroos took a shot. His sliced effort was wayward but the ball somehow found its way to Muller. The Bayern Munich man scuffed his shot, allowing Buffon to save comfortably.
- Italy immediately threatened at the other end following Bonucci's long ball for Giaccherini. His cross from the left flank reached Stefano Sturaro, whose shot was deflected for a corner. Nothing came out of the set-piece.
- In the 54th minute, Gomez laid the ball for Muller. He set himself up for a strike with a touch, but his effort was cleared off the line by Florenzi with a backheel flick.
- In the 65th minute, Gomez, on the left flank, slipped a pass through to Hector. The wingback's deflected cross found Ozil, who fired past Buffon.
- Three minutes later, Buffon pulled off a huge save. Ozil's lofted ball in behind the Italy defence found Gomez in space. He has time to bring the ball down on his chest but his touch took him away from goal. He improvised with a backheel attempt from six yards out but Buffon was equal to it.
- In the 74th minute, De Sciglio's low cross was attacked by Pelle at the near post. But his powerful shot was off target.
- In the 77th minute, Italy won a penalty for a handball by Boateng in the box. Manuel Neuer guessed the right way, diving to his left, but Bonucci's spotkick had too much pace and precision.
- In the 119th minute, Ozil's left-footed from outside the box was hit straight at Buffon.
The talking point
Italy have to be the unluckiest team at Euro 2016. Criticised after their 2014 World Cup exit in the group stage and written off by the Italian media after being drawn into the Group of Death, Italy overcome injuries to key midfielders - and the odds - to top Group E.
Their reward, if that is the right word, was a premature meeting with Spain. They sent the two-time defending champions home, only to come up against the world champions. Yet such is the ruthless nature of tournament football that one of the best teams in France have suffered a premature exit on penalties.
Man of the Match
Neuer. He did not have much to do, but he did not put a foot wrong. He even dived the right way for Bonucci's penalty in regulation. In the shootout, he saved from Bonucci and Darmian, and that was the difference.
What the result means
Germany have reached the semi-finals of a major tournament for a sixth straight time under Low. They will face either hosts France or Iceland for a place in the final. Hummels will miss the semi-final after picking up a yellow card in Bordeaux.
Italy will start a new era under Giampiero Ventura, 68, with Antonio Conte stepping down to manage Premier League giants Chelsea. Italy kick off their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign with a trip to Israel in September. Spain, Albania, Macedonia, and Liechtenstein are also in their group.
Germany have won their last six major tournament shootouts.
What they said
Neuer: "I've never experienced a penalty shootout like that... This shoot-out just fitted that duel between Italy and Germany. It wasn't that easy. It was a war of nerves."
Germany midfielder Sami Khedira: "Die Mannschaft has played like one big team. We didn't really allow them anything. We were very unlucky to concede."
Conte: "I'm proud of the players. They really gave absolutely everything."