Game in a sentence
Italy stun Germany and Europe with an incredible performance in Warsaw, which featured two wonderful goals from Super Mario Balotelli, and continue the Azzurri’s incredible tournament record against Die Mannschaft.
- Italy went with the diamond midfield 4-1-2-1-2, and the same team against England with one major exception. An injury to Ignazio Abate meant Chiellini was called to play leftback, while Balzaretti switched sides. Otherwise it was Montolivo behind Balotelli and Cassano, with Pirlo in front of the defense with Marchisio and De Rossi on either side.
- For Germany, Jurgi Loew played spin the bottle again with a 4-2-3-1, putting Gomez up front, Oezil in the hole, but Toni Kroos on his right instead of Mario Goetze. It wasn’t, as it turned out, the most inspired selection. And go!
- It looked in the early stages that Italy would have their backs up. Consistent pressure from the German midfield saw possession maintained around the Italian 18 yard box. Mats Hummels nearly scored in the 5th minute when Italy failed to clear a corner, but Buffon was onto it. Phillip Lahm added support on the left, Oezil was insightful, but Podolski was really nowhere to be seen. Even so, Germany lacked the ruthless, pinpoint run-and-pass-through-the-middle that their idealists believed they were good at, and Italy generally defended well.
- Prandelli’s master plan seemed to have been to attack down German’s right flank, and boy did that work, particularly as Riccardo Montolivo had a barnstormer of a game, linking up brilliantly with Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano and finding space for himself twice undefended on the edge of the German penalty area. Germany’s centreback pairing was weakened by the less-than-assured presence of Badstuber, who failed to mark Balotelli for Italy’s first goal, headed in by the Manchester City player in the 20th minute of play.
- And for the second goal, Montolivo sent a searching over-the-top ball to Balotelli, who smashed it past Manuel Neuer to give Italy a powerful 0-2 lead. Lahm played him onside on that occasion, but in general the failure of Khedira and Schweinsteiger to help compress the midfield left the CBs exposed.
- Germany left at half-time two goals down, and Loew must have known he made some major errors in his team selection. On came Marco Reus and Miroslav Klose at the 45 minute mark; off went Podolski and Mario Gomez. Germany started the half brightly with a few near chances, but they were still far too insistent on teeing up the perfect ball in the centre of the area. Pirlo was his imperious self, and the Italians pressed brilliantly in their own half, putting the Germans off their game easily at times.
- Meanwhile as the clock ticked down, the Germans moved higher up the pitch, and were almost exposed once or twice, as Marchisio failed to tee up Di Natale with acres of space. Italy grew in confidence and played positively sumptuous football with Pirlo driving the engine. Germany eventually resorted to come-what-may-crosses easily repelled by the back four.
- Still, there were some late thrills when Mesut Oezil scored a penalty when Balzaretti handled a bouncy ball in the area. Cue scenes of Manuel Neuer running up to do stuff. Quite an ending. Quite a game, as Italy prevailed, and will see Spain on Sunday in the final of Euro 2012. An incredible finish to a wonderful semifinal, and a footballing feast from the Azzurri.
1. Mario Balotelli
2. Riccardo Montolivo
3. Mesut Oezil