Euro 2012: Balotelli sinks Germany and sends Italy into the final


Mario Balotelli was the decisive man in Italy's 2-1 semi final win against Germany as the Manchester City striker bagged a brace in the first half to put his side ahead. The Germans might feel it was a harsh result given the amount of pressure that they created, especially in the second half, but Italy showed extraordinary determination and team spirit.

The game started in full swing and Germany had the first chance after just four minutes on a corner kick, Khedira deflected the ball past Buffon but Pirlo was at the right place to clear the ball off the line. Then Montolivo and Cassano tested Manuel Neuer with a couple of shots before Italy struck, 20 minutes into the game. Cassano jinked past Hummels, designed a perfect cross for Balotelli who got to the ball ahead of Badstuber and headed home. Germany needed some time to wrap their heads around the situation and the first real chance came on 35 minutes when Buffon had to stretch and dive in order to palm away Khedira's thunderous shot. But one minute later Balotelli was in the clear again. The striker was picked out well by a clever pass from Montolivo and finished the move with a powerful shot at the near post.

Germany started pushing forward with more men after the interval but substitute Reus and captain Lahm were unable to get their shots past Buffon. Marco Reus came the closest on 61 minutes with a free kick shot, the trajectory of the ball seemed perfect but legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon springed and diverted the ball onto the crossbar with the tips of his fingers. With Germany looking more and more desperate, chances were opening up for Italy on counter attacks. Marchisio and Di Natale both broke clean through but their shots ended up in the side netting. Germany had two more chances through Kroos and Hummels before they were awarded a penalty kick in the first minute of stoppage time as Balzaretti handballed inside the box. Ozil converted from the spot but it was too late for the Germans.

Italy will meet Spain on Sunday in Kyiv in a rematch of the opening group game, which ended 1-1 with goals scored by Di Natale and Cesc Fabregas.

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