Super Mario Balotelli Lifts Italy Past Germany into Euro Final
Striker Mario Balotelli scored twice in the first half as Italy continued its mastery over Germany with a 2-1 win to advance to the European Championship final for the first time since 2000 against defending champion Spain.
Balotelli unleashed a bullet header from five yards out in the 20th minute from a pass by Mario Cassano to stun the Germans, who dominated the early exchanges of the match.
The Manchester City striker added another 16 minutes later, scoring with a right-foot strike from 18 yards out uncontested to finish with a brace and snap the Germans' international record 15-game unbeaten streak.
Mezul Ozil scored on a last-minute penalty in injury time after Federico Balzaretti was whistled for a handball, but it was not enough to prevent Germany from suffering its first defeat in a competitive game since a World Cup semifinal loss to Spain in 2010.
"All I can say is that when you talk about Italy, everyone needs to be careful," Italy coach Cesare Prandelli told goal.com. "We played an extraordinary match. We displayed a model of fair play and attachment to this shirt."
With the loss, the Germans have yet to beat Italy in a competitive game. Previously, the Germans and Italians met seven times with the latter winning three times while four matches ended in draw.
Italy beat the Germans in the 1982 World Cup final and the World Cup semifinals in 1970 and 2006.
The Italians will meet the Spaniards Sunday in a match between past two World Cup winners in Kiev, Ukraine. Their first encounter in Group C ended in a 1-1 draw.
The Italians, four-time World Cup champions, look to end a 44-year title drought at the European Championship as they last won the event in 1968. The Italians made it to the Euro final in 2000 but were beaten by France, 2-1.
The Spaniards are trying to become the first team to win three straight major international tournaments, following Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010 titles.
"We're living a dream along with millions of Italians," Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini said. "We're going to enjoy this victory a little longer, then we'll think about Sunday, because we want to continue dreaming."
Germany v Italy - UEFA EURO 2012 Semi-Final Photos
Andrea Barzagli of Italy and Mario Gomez of Germany tussle for the ball. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
Marco Reus (3rd R) of Germany in action against Claudio Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo of Italy. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Mario Balotelli of Italy and Mats Hummels of Germany. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Sami Khedira of Germany. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Gianluigi Buffon (R) and Andrea Pirlo (C) of Italy. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Gianluigi Buffon (C) of Italy shouts at his team-mates. (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Italy extended their proud record of never having lost to Germany in a major finals when they claimed a 2-1 victory against Joachim Loew's side in their Euro 2012 semi-final in Warsaw on Thursday. German fans looked on in despair as striker Mario Balotelli struck twice booking the Azzurri a place in the final