Semi-final (UEFA Euro 2012)
Italy beat Germany 2-1
Goal scorers: Mario Balotelli (Italy), Mesut Ozil (Germany)
Italy had to secure a win to uphold their record against Germany, and didn’t they do it in grand style? Italy went to Warsaw with a team that had a new set of selection worries. While they lost Ignazio Abate, they got back Giorgio Chiellini who was deployed on the left flank. Italy went unchanged in their strike which had not fired in the last few matches they played. But the confidence of the coach Cesare Prandelli in his regular weapons upfront paid rich dividends to them.
Germany dominated the possession in the early minutes of the match and took the attack to the Italian penalty area many a time. The presence of mind of the best goalkeeper in the world Gigi Buffon saved them on a few occasions while the presence of the two Andreas (Pirlo and Barzagli) saved them on two other occasions. In their hurry to reach the ball to their strikers to score early, German defence got depleted and that was when both the goals of the match were produced. Mario Balotelli acknowledged his coach who persisted his belief in him despite the poor shows in the early group matches. He scored against Ireland and played the full 120 minutes and scored first for Italy in the shootout against England, and he gave a double delight to the coach, team, and fans in the first half. Though he got an expected yellow card for obdurately displaying his six pack body after scoring the second goal, he wouldn’t mind it as only the final is in front of him. Balotelli who generally keeps his position in the front, also switched back to the midfield at times to help the ball to Antonio Cassano and even to do some defending.
The second half saw some expected changes in the German side with Mario Gomez who was unable to convert chances, and Lucas Podolski who was a mere shadow of his past, being replaced. Italy went in unchanged after the break. A few minutes later, Cassano and Balotelli were replaced, and Montolivo a little later. Buffon nullified all the attacks with his men in front. Claudio Marchisio led attacks to the German goal but missed two golden opportunities and Antonio Di Natale one. In the closing minutes of the match, German ‘keeper Manuel Neuer came forward and added strength to the attack. Germany won a penalty for Federico Balzaretti’s hand ball and the dependable Mesut Ozil put that in the net with elan. But it was all too late for them. Pirlo who worked tirelessly in the midfield deservedly got the Man of the Match award. Italy maintains their unbeaten record against Germany and Prandelli maintains his unbeaten record as Italy coach.
So, isn’t it going to be Juventus vs Barcelona in Kiev on Sunday late night? It is much more than that. Italy must win it to wipe out the match fixing scandals back home and Spain must win it to be called Euro champions on either sides of their own World Cup win. But, didn’t I predict the possibility of an Italy vs Spain final this time, even before it all started?