Fri, June 29, 2012
Sports > Soccer > 2012 European Championship

"Super Mario" inspires Italy to stun Germany at Euro semifinal

2012-06-28 21:36:08 GMT2012-06-29 05:36:08(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

WARSAW, June 28 (Xinhua) -- Mario Balotelli on Thursday proved his value with two goals as Italy stunned Germany 2-1 to reach the Euro 2012 final.

Balotelli, who was questioned by some critics for lacking last-shot ability, headed home his first goal and struck the second in the first half to pave the way for Italy, who will face Spain in the final on July 1 in Kiev.

Germany, which had been on a world-record 15-match winning streak in competitive fixtures before Thursday's clash, fought to the last second with a Mesut Oezil's penalty in the injury time.

They can still leave the stage with heads up for their faith in attacking football and courage to send a youngest squad to the tournament.

The victory extended Italy's dominant record against Germany in competitive meetings to four wins and four draws.

Facing a favorite side which had scored freely with their attacking style in Poland and Ukraine, Italy survived an early scare just after the opening whistle when Mats Hummels' shot from a corner was blocked on the line by a near-post Andrea Pirlo.

Giorgio Chiellini, who returned to the starting left defender after injuries, sent Antonio Cassano clear down the left in the 20th minute when the AC Milan forward fed Mario Balotelli in the central area who then found the net with a close-range header.

Balotelli continued his hot form after 16 minutes when Riccardo Montolivo's long ball helped him pass the German backline in the twinkling of an eye and the Manchester City forward fired the ball from the edge of box into the top right corner.

"Super Mario", who was unable to restrain his excitement, took off the shirt in the 56,070-seat National Stadium, only to be cautioned by the referee with a yellow card.

After the break, Germany brought in Marco Reus and Miroslav Klose to replace Lukas Podolski and Mario Gomez, making the squad pacier and direct in attack.

Italy replaced forward Antonio Cassano with Bologna midfielder Alessandro Diamanti, changing from an offensive-minded show in the first half to their classic counter-attack strategy.

Italy, which has not lost to Germany since a 2-0 friendly defeat in Zurich in June 1995, nearly sealed the victory with one clear chance in the last 15 minutes but Antonio Di Natale struck the ball just past the post.

Germany, dangerous from many chances though, failed to beat an in-form Gianluigi Buffon and a solid Italian defensive line.

Oezil, the most dynamic and creative midfielder in his side, scored Germany's last goal in the tournament from the penalty spot.

The last semifinal meeting between the two traditional powers was at the 2006 World Cup, in which the Azzurri gatecrashed host Germany's party 2-0.

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