Mario Balotelli’s devastating display crushes Germany
Italy 2 Germany 1. There was nothing ‘bonkers’ about Mario Balotelli last night as he fired Italy into the final of Euro 2012 with two great goals at the expense of Germany. The Manchester City striker with a reputation for madcap antics showed the world just why the Sky Blues paid Inter Milan £20m for his services two years ago. It was a devastating display of top-class finishing.
There were emotional scenes after the match, which sets up a mouthwatering clash between Italy and Spain in Sunday’s final, as the 21-year-old Balotelli embraced his adoptive mother in the stands of Warsaw’s National Stadium.
“At the end of the game I went to my mother, that was the best moment,” said Balotelli. “I told her these goals were for her. I waited a long time for this moment, especially as my mother is not young anymore and can’t travel far, so I had to make her happy when she came all the way here.”
Balotelli’s dad will be in Kiev on Sunday hoping his son can reproduce the form he showed against the stunned Germans.
Germany were the pre-match favourites last night and began in lively form, going close to scoring early on when a volley from Mats Hummels was scrambled off the line by Andrea Pirlo. Italy keeper Gianluigi Buffon then fumbled a shot from Jerome Boateng and the loose ball nearly cannoned off the legs of Andrea Barzagli and into the goal.
But on 20 minutes Italy took the lead against the run of play. Antonio Cassano danced his way past Mats Hummels on the left flank before floating an inch perfect pass into the six-yard box. Balotelli slipped his marker Holger Badstuber and powered a well-directed header past Manuel Neuer in the German goal.
Balotelli later praised the “really amazing pass” from his teammate, adding that “when Cassano gives you an assist, it is easy.”
Balotelli doubled Italy’s lead on 36 minutes with a goal that will live long in the memory. Collecting a pass from Riccardo Montolivo just outside the centre circle, Balotelli surged upfield before letting rip with a thunderous shot that flew past Neuer into the top corner of the net.
As the beaten German keeper sank to one knee, Balotelli celebrated his stunning strike by whipping off his shirt and striking a pose. He got a yellow card for his vanity but later made light of the caution, telling reporters that his teammates “didn’t get angry because I was booked for taking my shirt off, but they saw my physique and got jealous.”
Germany never fully recovered from Balotelli’s brace and though Mesut Ozil scored a stoppage time penalty they were well beaten on the night. “We won 15 games in a row but lost today against an incredibly strong Italian side,” conceded Joachim Loew. Asked how his boys were coping with the defeat, the German coach said: “The disappointment is great. Nobody is speaking in the dressing room. The players are crying.”
Balotelli’s goals against Germany means he is now the tournament’s joint top scorer with three (along with four other players). Spain will be trying to work out how best to nullify the threat posed by ‘Super Mario’ ahead of Sunday’s encounter in Kiev. As Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said of his protégée: “Balotelli is unique, a modern striker, atypical if you will. He’s very strong physically, and can fight for the team, but is always there when called upon.” ·