Mario Balotelli scores a brace to fire Italy in Euro 2012 Final
Germany 1-2 Italy
National Stadium, Warsaw
Thursday 28 June 2012
Mario Balotelli silenced his critics and sent Italy fans into raptures with a first-half double that earned his side a place in the Euro 2012 Final at the expense of Germany.
Joachim Loew’s side were many people's tournament favourites but Italy, spearheaded by the unpredictable Manchester City striker, earned the right to face Spain in the tournament finale thanks to a bullet header and exquisite finish from Balotelli.
The forward’s erratic actions at City have sometimes negated his talents but his brace won his side the game before Mesut Ozil struck a late consolation penalty for the vanquished.
Germany started brightly with playmaker Ozil orchestrating a number of moves from the German midfield while his opposite number Adrea Pirlo, one of the tournament’s stand-out performers, probed the German backline for defence-splitting passes.
But the creator of Italy’s opener after 20 minutes was not Pirlo but Antonio Cassano who wriggled down the left flank and chipped a pass into Germany’s penalty box. Balotelli read the pass to perfection and beat his marker and Manuel Neuer at his front post with a powerful header.
Germany were stunned and wasted no time in pouring forward in vein attempts to level the scoring. Mario Gomez did his best to link up with Ozil and Toni Kroos but the attacking triumvirate, along with new Arsenal forward Lukas Podolski, were unable to beat Gianluigi Buffon in the Italy goal, although Kroos did test him from distance to draw out a fine save.
Italy remained a constant threat on the counter attack and 16 minutes after their opener the Azzuri doubled their lead with a rapid break. A Germany corner was immediately transformed into an Italy attack and when Balotelli timed his run to perfection, beating the offside trap while meeting a lofted pass, it appeared he would be closed down.
But the Mohican-sporting maverick let the ball run across his body before unleashing a rasping effort that raced past Neuer’s front pass and almost burst the net.
With just seconds remaining of the match, Real Madrid man Ozil held his nerve to convert a penalty but it was too late for the Germans and perfect timing for Italy.
Neuer; Lahm, Hummels, Badstuber, Boateng (Mueller 71); Khedira, Kross, Schweinsteiger; Ozil, Podolski (Reus 46), Gomez (Klose 46)
Substitutes not used
Wiese, Zieler, Schmelzer, Howedes, Mertesacker, Gundogan, Schurrle, Bender, Gotze
Buffon; Balzaretti, Chiellini, Barzagli, Bonucci; Marchisio, De Rossi, Montolivo (Motta 63), Pirlo, Balotelli (Di Natale 69); Cassano (Diamanti 58)
Substitutes not used
Sirigu, De Sanctis, Ogbonna, Abate, Giaccherini, Diamanti, Nocerino, Borini, Giovinco