Semi-Final
Germany 1-2 Italy

 

 

The mercurial Mario Balotelli strikes again as he unleashed an unstoppable shot after getting beyond the shoulder of Lahm to crash past Neuer

 

 

By Alex Byrom
Deputy Football Editor from the National Stadium, Warsaw


Italy have reached the UEFA European Championship final for the first time since 1968 with a superb performance to knock out pre-tournament favourites Germany in the Polish capital.

Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli scored twice- making him the joint top scorer at the tournament- as Italy took advantage of Germany's open defence to reach the final, not even Ozil's late penalty could prevent them from taking on Spain in Sunday's final. 

Germany made three changes to the side that comfortably beat Greece 4-2 in the quarter-finals: Mario Gomez and Lukas Podolski both returned after being rested while Bayern Munich's Toni Kroos came in for Andre Schurrle who dropped to the bench. 

Italy made just one change that side beat England on penalties on Sunday, and it was big news as boss Cesare Prandelli with key central defender Girogio Chiellini returning to replace the injured AC Milan full-back Christian Abate while Christian Maggio was suspended after picking up a second yellow card of the tournament in the shoot-out victory over the Three Lions. 

 

? DID YOU KNOW ?

Italy have never lost in a competitive game to the Germans: it's now eight games unbeaten.

 

Italy hadn't won this tournament since 1968, whilst Germany hadn't won a major tournament since Euro 1996. Italy had never scored in a European Championship semi-final, but Germany had never beaten Italy in a major tournament; bogey team. Italy had sneaked through whilst Germany had beaten three of the best teams in the tournament, plus Greece to reach this stage. 

Italy - who had two days fewer to recover than the Germans - began nervously especially Buffon who was all at sea. Germany created some fantastic chances. On six minutes, Kroos's corner was missed by Buffon and fell to centre defender Hummels, but his shot hit Buffon and was cleared off the line by man of the match against Italy: Andrea Pirlo. 

On eleven minutes, a flowing move down the right fed Boateng. The Bayern Munich man fed in a dangerous cross which Buffon attempted to parry away, but it hot Bonucci and was lucky not to go into the net as an own goal. From the resulting corner - which was cleared away, Real Madrid midfielder Khedira fired a shot that the world's most expensive keeper had to dive across and parry away. 

Italy were lucky not to be behind, but on many occasions in this competition they have weathered storms and then stamped their authority on the game. And they did the same here. 

A nice, neat, integrat passing ended with a virtuous shot from Montolivo, although Neuer saved easily. He then had to get down low to deny a Marchisio shot from just inside the area. But then the Italians struck a huge blow, as they took the lead for the 4th time in 5 games in this tournament: It was all made by Cassano on the left. He turned the immobile Badstuber, and found a fantastic cross that was powerfully headed into the net by Mario Balotelli, destroying that horrible stat (mentioned below) and given Italy a deserved lead. 

It was the first time Germany had been behind since the first game of the qualifying for this tournament. Italy's tactics were working a treat; exposing Germany's fragility in defence by attacking through the middle, coupled with the dogged defending.

Germany were still a threat and created some very good chances as they tried to regain some of the iniative. Samit Khedira hit a seemingly impossible shot towards the top corner but Buffon dived across and pulled off a world class save; the best of this tournament so far. 

However, the Italians know when to attack, and they hit the Germans with the perfect sucker punch from the subsequent corner. Buffon came and punched it to Montolivo. He ran to the half way line - and delivered the perfect defence-splitting pass that beat Lahm, leaving Balotelli onside and through. The Manchester City man then smashed it past a stationary Neuer and into the net, earning himself a yellow card for his removal of his shirt. 

Germany coach Jochaim Loew knew that his nation was on the brink and needed pace. He acted switftly. Reus, who was impressive against Greece, and veteran Klose came on at the break for Gomez and the very futile Podolski. 

It had a positve impact immediately: He turned away from Barzagli, but his weak effort with his left foot was comfortably. Germany had begun the second half really well. Lahm did a lovely one-two with Reus - who played him in - but the captain couldn't follow up his goal last week by skying the ball over the bar. 

On the break though, Italy were scenting a third that would kill of the contest. Balotelli was trying to do just that. Again he beat Badstuber, who unfortuantely slipped, but he smacked it wide of the far post. 

The closest the Germans' came to getting back into the game was on 61 minutes. A ball was played into Kroos was brought down by Bonucci - who was booked. Subsititute Reus stepped up and curled it beautifully over the wall but Buffon got across and tipped it onto the top of the crossbar and away to safety. 

With the Germany now desperately throwing caution to the wind, it left even more open, and every time the Italians' came forward a goal seemed inevitable. Pirlo was at the heart of things. He played a delightful ball through to Marchisio but his cross-shot past Neuer was also past the post. 

Marchisio was having a lot of joy with the ball at his feet. He was found again, this time by sub Diamanti, but scuffed his shot wide, despite fellow sub Di Natale being in arguably a better position. 

 

? DID YOU KNOW ?

Mario Balotelli's goal was the first Italy have scored in a European Championship semi-final. 

 

With the German backline virtually on the half way line; they were playing a dangerous game. Pirlo's long ball for Di Natale played him in. The flag stayed down but he wasted the opportunity. Moments later he was flagged offside from Diamanti's pass and it was the correct decision. 

Germany threw eveyone forward now, even Neuer. A corner fell to Hummels again but Buffon - who knew nothing about it - blocked it and gathered the ball. 

In stoppage time, they finally did get a goal; a lifeline. Balzaretti was harshly adjudged to have handled Reus's shot and referee Stephane pointed to the spot. Ozil scored a fantastic penalty into the far left corner past Buffon. But Germany ran out of time, and their bogey side has knocked them out again. Holders Spain will face Italy, both knowing each other very well having met for the opening game of group C in which the Italians were superb in a 1-1 draw.


See the preview here, and tune in this Sunday night. 

 

 

ANALYSIS:  Germany 1-2 Italy
Adam Higgins-  Chief Football Editor reporting from Warsaw


"Nobody fancied Italy; everyone expected Germany, even Italy. The pre-tournament favourites had the only 100% record in the tournament and Italy had scraped through to the quarter-finals where they had to beat England on penalties. But the Italians were maginificent. They ran, they chsed they put their bodies on the line, and when they got the ball down - they created some decent chances. They put two away. They face Spain in Kiev on Sunday; a 1-1 draw got group C off the mark. A great final: when Italy play well, they are fantastic; Spain haven't hit dizzy heights yet, but they're saving it for the final."

 

 

 

 

Thursday 28th June                UEFA Euro 2012: Poland & Ukraine                Semi-Final                  National Stadium, Warsaw


Germany 1-2 Italy                                                          KO 7:45pm                     Live on BBC1/HD                 (HT 0-2)

Ozil 90+2 (pen)      Balotelli 20, 36

 

 

Germany:

(4-2-3-1)


1 Manuel Neuer-  6.5/10  Not a lot to do in the game, but made some relatively easy saves. Could do nothing about the goals.

20 Jerome Boateng-  6/10  Slotted into the side nicely, but was very poor defensively. Going forward was okay with some good balls into the box.

5 Mats Hummels-  5.5/10  Caught constantly all over the place. Didn't look like a veteran defender. Very poor positionning, and didn't handle Balotelli very well at all.

14 Holger Badstuber-  5/10  Was worse than his defensive counterpart which is staggering: all over the place; out of position and couldn't deal with Italy's movement. Beaten too easily en route to the opening goal. 

16 Phillip Lahm (C)-  6/10  Took on oppposite full-back well and always looked to get forward. Caught out for second goal playing the offside trap. Missed a sitter in second half. 

7 Bastian Schweinsteiger-  6/10  Strangely giving the ball away more frequent than usual - normally calm in possession but rushed a little when being harried therefore not being able to get into his usual stride. Used at right back late on but his crossing was poor.

6 Sami Khedira-  5/10  Another inefficient display from the Real Madrid man who regularly gave the ball away and was nowhere near the play. Despite this, he had 2 wondeful efforts which Buffon did well to save.

18 Tony Kroos-  4.5/10  Looked a little rusty in early exchanges which was understandable, and lacked the creative spark that he was employed to bring. One great early corner, otherwise delivery was bad.

8 Mesut Ozil-  5.5/10  A rusty performance. Very robotic and never seems to track back. Played more centrally but couldn't find the decisive pass, so laboured around looking for the ball. Wonderful penalty though. 

23 Mario Gomez-  6/10  Came back into side and had an inflence on the game throughout, some great touches, always on the move and a classy player with a huge future in the national side. Held the ball up well but couldn't get into positions facing the goal. Withdrawn at the break. 

10 Lukasz Podolski-  5/10  New Arsenal was hardly involved. Showed glimpses of brilliance but was restricted to flashes. May find his international career over after this performance. 

 

Substitutes bench:- 
12 Wiese (GK), 22 Zieler (GK), 3 Schmelzer, 4 Howedes, 17 Mertesacker, 2 Gundogan, 13 Mueller, 15 Bender, 18 Kroos, 19 Gotze, 10 Podolski, 23 Gomez.

 

Subs used: 

Reus (for Podolski- 46 mins)-  4.5/10 Was an instant threat when he came on showing flashes of brilliance. Some nice touches and set up Lahm for a good chance.

Klose (for Gomez- 46 mins)-  2.5/10 Wasn't as influential as he wanted to be. Won a few headers but the fact that he didn't have one chance shows his ineptitude.

Mueller (for Boateng- 71 mins)-  1.5/10  Short cameo whereby he didn't impose himself on the final minutes, hardly touching the ball at all.

 

Booked:       Hummels (90+3), 

 

Sent-off:         None

Italy:

(4-1-3-2)


1 Gianluca Buffon (C)-  8/10  Very shaky early on, making a couple of bad decisions. But after that his class oozed out. He pulled off a draw full of outstanding saves to keep Italy ahead. His punch set up the second goal. 

3 Girogio Chiellini-  9/10  Was a rock in defence. Tackled well and marked both Ozil and Mueller out of the game. One moment of class when his last ditch tackle on Kroos stopped him having an effort on goal. Brilliant. 

15 Andrea Barzagli-  9.5/10  Absolutely fantastic. Never put one foot wrong. Tackled, blocked, harried and headed, it was the complete performance from a guy that is massively underrated. Last ditch tackle on Klose typified his match.

19 Leonardo Bonucci-  9/10  Tall and powerful which was a good advantage to have against Gomez. Similar to comments' above: A brute, battling the German team and if it wasn't for his crucial interventions it may have been different.

6 Federico Balzaretti-  8.5/10  The Palermo full-back was used as an attacking weapon to bomb forward down the right flank, but didn't and stuck to his job on Kroos with comfort. Stopped play and marked him out of the game. Unluckily penalised for handball in dying seconds.

21 Andrea Pirlo-  9/10  Smartly kept hold of possession when Italy had the ball with his neat and his influence grew on the game - the veteran midfield maestro offered himself a lot and received the ball. Sprayed passes around for fun and was allowed to. A masterclass and set up many chances. Picked up the midfield pieces. A great clearance off the line in the first half.

8 Claudio Marchisio-  8.5/10   A brilliant performance. Ran the ball and caused the German defence all sorts of problems. Turned Badstuber and had he had a little more composure he could have helped himself to a couple of goals. 

16 Daniele De Rossi-  8/10  Was hardly seen, but that's because he was chasing down the play. He tackled the players and marked Schweinsteiger, who was forced to go backwards or sidewards.  

18 Ricardo Montolivo-  8.5/10  Knocked the ball around with confidence and got a little extra space in the engine room because of the way Pirlo was domineering. Picked up the ball and was always looking forward for Balotelli and/or Cassano. A figurehead going forward.

10 Antonio Cassano-  8.5/10  A real class act. Great skill, movement and great vision. Caused Badstuber and Hummels all sorts of worries. Turned the former and found Balotelli for the first goal. Truly magnificent. 

9 Mario Balotelli-  9/10 What can you say? The good side of Mario! He was brilliant. Working hard, closing down and interchaging with forward. And scored 2 absolute screamers and now has the chance to win the golden boot on Sunday. He was awesome; the best I have ever seen him play.  

Substitutes bench:- 
12 Sirigu (GK), 14 De Sanctis (GK), 2 Maggio, 3 Chiellini, 4 Ogbonna, 5 Thiago Motta, 13 Giaccherini, 22 Diamanti, 23 Nocerino, 11 Di Natale, 17 Borini, 20 Giovinco.

 

Subs used: 

Diamanti (for Cassano- 58 mins)-  3.5/10 Did well when he came on. Held the ball well, and utilsed the ball even better - setting up counter attacks.

Motta (for Montolivo- 63 mins)-  2.5/10 Came on and defended well. Got stuck in and picked up the pieces.

Di Natale (for Balotelli- 69 mins)-  4/10 Added some fresh legs to the cause for the Italians which was required. Ran the line well and if he had been played in could have finished the game off. Was unluckily flagged offside. 

 

Booked:       Balotelli (37), Bonucci (60), De Rossi (83), Motta (89)

 

Sent-off:       None

My Man of the Match:   Andrea Barzagli (Italy)- Rating 9.5/10

My Poorest Performer of the Match:   Toni Kroos (Germany)- Rating 4.5/10

 

 

Referee: Stephane Lannoy (France)- 8/10
Attendance: 58,500

 

 

Match Facts:


Possession: Germany- 53%                   Italy- 47%

Shots at goal: Germany- 17                   Italy- 11

Shots on target: Germany- 8                   Italy- 5

Shots off target: Germany- 9                   Italy- 6

Corners: Germany- 14                   Italy- 0

Fouls: Germany- 12                   Italy- 17

Offsides: Germany- 2                   Italy- 6

Assists: Germany- None                   Italy- 2 (Cassano & Montolivo)

 

 


MANAGERS COMMENTS & REACTION:


Germany head coach Jochaim Loew:  "
We lost our organisation after the first, avoidable, goal and then the second came. We made mistakes and paid the price. In the second half our team showed real heart and tried everything but could not get the goal. If I look back on the team selection it's easy to say I could have changed something. Mario Gomez scored three goals and has done well in training. I wanted Toni Kroos in the team so he could get among the Italy midfielders. When we conceded the first we couldn't get back into the game for a little while. I had to make some substitutions, I had to risk everything and try something. We've had two great years, the team has developed very well, winning 15 [competitive] games in a row. We lost today against a very strong Italy team who have a great spine and two quick strikers. They were just a bit better – you have to acknowledge that and they were more clinical than us. Cesare Prandelli has changed this team around; they have more of an offensive philosophy. I expected Italy to play like this; if they take the lead it is very difficult, but we should have got it back to 2-1 earlier."


Italy head coach Cesare Prandelli:  "We prepared very well for this game. Of course you need to actually get things right on the day. We knew they were very good on the flanks – we wanted to keep the ball and knock it about in midfield. We took a bit of a risk but got Antonio Cassano on the ball in one-on-ones and that allowed Mario Balotelli to get into space high up the pitch. Balotelli was excellent just like the entire team were. I really need a team to have an idea, and Balotelli subscribed to this. He was always available, ran high up the pitch and did very well. He was in the game, he was very focused, concentrated and did exactly what I asked of him. I took him off because I saw he was struggling and didn't want to risk him. I am very proud of these players – I don't want it all to be about me. Germany are a good side, but we have a good idea about how to play the game. We've always tried to play football right from the outset – the players have really bought into what we're trying to do. We tried to play football right from the start against Germany. I always wanted to focus on this style as we have a lot of quality."


Click here for post-match thoughts of Italy forward Mario Balotelli

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