Friday 29 June 2012
Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli scored two first-half goals to put Italy into Sunday’s UEFA Euro 2012 final.
The 21-year-old struck with a header and a rasping shot as his side recorded a surprise semi-final victory over the much-fancied Germans in Warsaw.
It was Germany who made the early running, Toni Kroos having a powerful shot punched away as Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon made a nervy start.
But Italy opened the scoring against the run of play on 20 minutes when Antonio Cassano turned Mats Hummels on the left before delivering a fine cross for Balotelli to head in from six yards out.
Italy doubled their lead 16 minutes later. After the Italians broke from a Germany corner, Balotelli was played through on goal with a long ball over the top of the defence and he smacked home with a ferocious shot into the top corner.
Germany desperately tried to get back into the match after the break but Italy’s defence was tenacious while Buffon saved superbly from a Marco Reus free-kick.
With time running out and the Germans pushing forward, Italy carved out some superb opportunities – Antonio di Natale having the best of them but he blasted wide when played through on goal.
Germany received a late lifeline when Mesut Ozil fired home from the penalty spot after Federico Balzaretti had been penalised for handball, but it was too little too late as Italy hung on for a memorable win.