Balotelli boots Italy into Euro final

Italian forward Mario Balotelli, left, is congratulated by teammates during the Euro 2012 football...

Italian forward Mario Balotelli, left, is congratulated by teammates during the Euro 2012 football championships semi-final match Germany vs Italy on June 28, 2012 at the National Stadium in Warsaw. (AFP PHOTO/PATRIK STOLLARZ)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:44 PM ET

WARSAW - Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini summed up a magnificent 2-1 victory over Germany in the Euro 2012 semifinal perfectly.

"We knew we were going into the game against a heavily favoured opponent," Chiellini said. "But we knew we could hurt them. We knew we could suffer together to win and we suffered. But in the end, we earned the victory."

Italy is through to the European championship final against Spain after accomplshing something not many people believed any team could do ... defeat Germany.

The Italians may have suffered some but they inflicted a great deal of pain on the German side. Except for a stretch at the start, and a frenzied final two minutes, Italy left what had been an organized, confident German team in tatters.

It was the eighth meeting between the two soccer powers in major competitions and Germany has yet to win, with Italy winning four and the others ending in draws.

There was no secret to this victory.

Italy's best players played like its best players. Those who needed to perform in order for Italy to win performed admirably.

Simply, the Italians came to play. It was a Grade A day for Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon and Mario Balotelli, with the latter scoring both Italian goals. But it was a Grade A day for most of the Italians as they went head-to-head with Germany's best and made them look ordinary.

It was stunning.

When Italy went up 2-0 in the first half, not only were the German fans stunned, but virtually everyone else in the stadium was, too. It wasn't the fact Italy was leading, it was more the ease with which the Italians handled Germany once they got rolling.

Buffon and Pirlo helped Italy survive some early jitters. But when the Italians found their footing, they found it in a big way.

Pirlo's feet were poetry in motion. He did the same thing he did against every other team he's played, distributing the ball all over the field, holding it until a man was open and making the Germans chase him.

The Italians did one other thing they promised to do before the game. They attacked. They attacked a German defence that didn't hold any magic on this night, a defence whose players were lead-footed and lost.

Even the impervious Mats Hummels was torched repeatedly.

Italian Antonio Cassano constructed Balotelli's first goal. He turned Hummels and Jerome Boateng inside out and delivered a room-service cross to Balotelli, who went high over a rooted Holger Badstuber and drove the ball past a helpless Manuel Neuer in net.

It was the first time in 1,313 minutes, since the 2010 World Cup third-place game, that Germany trailed in a competitive match.

Riccardo Montolivo sent Balotelli away next on a long romp. Again the Germans had no idea. Balotelli completed his run by driving a 15-metre shot to the top of the net, a blast no goaltender in the world could have stopped.

After he scored, Balotelli found an open spot on the field, took off his shirt and posed, showing off his abs and guns.

He was, seemingly, saying come and get it.

That is the striker Italians have been looking to find for so many years. But they still must hope when he does explode, it will be in a good way.

From then on, Italy controlled the play.

German manager Joachim Loew tried to find the key to unlock Italy but no matter what he tried, whether quick or big, nothing worked.

Germany avoided embarrassment time and time again as the Italians missed chances to go up by three or four. In added time, Germany was awarded a penalty on a Federico Balzaretti hand ball. Mesut Ozil converted.

Italy suffered for the next three minutes as the Germans woke up. Even Neuer made forays down the field.

The desperation was indicative of what a disaster this loss was for the Germans.

They will go home a team of enormous talent that failed once again to win a major tournament. A team that will now have to explain away another loss to the Azzurri while Italians dance in the streets.


Videos

Photos