Mario Balotelli wrote another remarkable chapter in his amazing career as he fired Italy into the UEFA EURO 2012 final with a two-goal salvo against Germany in Warsaw, winning the game 2-1. The Manchester City man rose to power home Antonio Cassano's 20th-minute cross to put the underdogs in front.
Then he smashed an unstoppable shot past Manuel Neuer to double Italy's lead and take him joint-top of the Golden Boot standings. Mesut Ozil's last-minute penalty was not enough to prevent Germany's suffering their first defeat in a competitive game since their 2010 FIFA World Cup™ semi-final loss to Spain two years ago.
Indeed, it was their third semi-final loss in their past four tournaments, one of which, in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, came against tonight's opponents, who have still never lost to Germany in a competitive game, and now face Spain in Kiev on Sunday.
"Balotelli was excellent, just like the entire team were," said Italy coach Cesare Prandelli. "I really believe that a team needs to have an idea in the way they play and he really subscribed to this playing style. He was high up the pitch and available and I think he put in a very good performance this evening."
"Balotelli Bags His Brace"
On the second occasion he spotted Balotelli making his run, exploiting Philipp Lahm's failure to maintain the offside line. It took Balotelli a bit of time to get himself into a shooting position. However, as the ball sat up nicely, he smashed it past Manuel Neuer.
The Germany keeper had set himself to make a save. In the end, there was nothing he could do but stick out a limp hand and fall to the ground, powerless to do anything to prevent his goal being breached a second time. Balotelli was booked for removing his shirt as he attempted to celebrate with a moody pose.
He could not keep it up though and broke into a broad smile as he was engulfed by ecstatic team-mates. It was a performance that put English efforts - and Ireland's for that matter - into some kind of perspective.
Germany though were a shadow of their normal selves. Twice in the opening stages Gianluigi Buffon had fumbled close to his own line but they could not take advantage. Sami Khedira did launch a volley towards goal in between Balotelli's brace, but on that occasion Buffon was able to make the save.
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