In 10 competitive matches, Italy has never lost to Germany. Mario Balotelli scored twice in the first half. Germany pulled one back on a late penalty but not could equalize. Italy will meet Spain in the Euro 2012 final. In a bizarre sea change, it will be the Italians who are the plucky, compelling side that will capture the neutrals’ hearts. So much for the match-fixing scandal.
This has been a fantastic performance for Italian coach Cesare Prandelli. He has changed formations radically, adjusted for injuries and, for the most part, received a resolute defensive performance with an uncharacteristic flair going forward. The Italians, as is their wont, have peaked at just the right time. That Balotelli/Cassano partnership was bound to connect eventually. If Italy wins the final, expect Pirlo to get some serious consideration for the Ballon D’Or over Messi and Ronaldo.
Germany will be crushed. This was their year. They have reached now reached at least the semifinals at five of the last six major tournaments and come home without a trophy. As surprising as it is to write, Joachim Loew’s handling of this tournament should be questioned. He got the most from less impressive sides at past tournaments. With a loaded squad this time, he never quite found the right balance between the old guard and the young kids. Shifting around the attacking lineup match to match prevented the team from developing a true continuity going forward.
Spain seemed relieved to escape against Italy with a draw in the group stage. They won’t relish facing them again, though will the Italians be able to rouse themselves for a third match in eight days?
[Photo via Getty]
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