Yes, it’s Italy and not Germany who will face Spain in the final of the Euro 2012.
Mario Balotelli was the hero for the Azzurri last night as his wonderful brace won the latter the game.
What follows is look at Italy’s win and on what lies next for the ‘controversy-plagued’ nation.
How It Went?
Before the match started, Joachim Low pulled out a couple of team changes. Miroslav Klose, who started and scored against Greece, was dropped in favor of Mario Gomez. Lukas Podolski, too, was back in the starting line-up. However, there were no signs of Thomas Muller or Marco Reus and instead, Toni Kroos got the nod to play alongside Ozil and Podolski.
On the other hand, Low’s counterpart, Cesare Prandelli, made one change to the team that defeated England in the quarterfinals, with Giorgio Chiellini starting at left-back and Federico Balzaretti playing out of position at right-back.
The game started off with both teams in all out on attack and looking to gain an early advantage over their opponents.
Mats Hummels’ shot was cleared off the line in the fifth minute and Toni Kroos and Antonio Cassano, both, had their long range efforts saved by Gianluigi Buffon and Manuel Neuer respectively.
Then, in the 20th minute, Italy drew the first blood. Mario Balotelli thunderously headed in Antonio Cassano’s cross to put the Italians ahead.
The Germans responded with more attacking pressure, but, yet again, it was the Italians who found the back of the net.
Nine minutes before half time, Montolivo’s raking long-range pass released Balotelli clean on goal. The Manchester City star first coolly composed himself, and then, smashed in a brilliant finish into the top corner to double his and his nations’ lead.
Joachim Low replaced Mario Gomez and Lukas Podolski with Miroslav Klose and Marco Reus after the half-time interval and Thomas Mueller with Jerome Boateng midway through the second half.
The substitutions, however, did not create the desired impact and the Germans were unable to find a way to beat Gianluigi Buffin and his men until the 91st minute, when Mesut Oezil netted in a penalty resulting from Federico Balzaretti’s clumsy handball.
Yet, it was just too late and the Italians hung on for a truly remarkable win.
Man of the Match: Mario Balotelli
Before Italy’s semi-final with Germany, many felt that Mario Balotelli had failed to live up to his expectations at the Euros and that the 21-year-old was just not good enough to perform on football’s biggest stage.
However, Balotelli proved those critics wrong in effervescent fashion by scoring the goals that booked Italy’s place in the final of the Euro 2012.
The former Inter Milan star might not have contributed much at the back, but his attacking displays proved to the football world yet again that no matter how much of a nuisance he might be off, and even on the field, Balotelli is still one of the best youngsters in this game.
What Next For Azzurri?
As we all know now, Italy will face Spain in the final of the Euro 2012 on Sunday.
The match is expected to be a hotly contested encounter with Spain being the hot favourites to to win yet another major tournament.
However, one shouldn’t forget that the Spaniards have been far from their potential best , and that Italy themselves almost outplayed Vincet Del Bosque’s men when the two sided met in the opening encounter of Group C.
Therefore, we can clearly say that Cesare Prandelli and his men a great chance to topple the world champions and lift the most prestigious European trophy after a gap of 44 years.
Will they though? We’ll see on Sunday.