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June 28, 2012
• Stadion Narodowy, Warszawa
Referee: S. Lannoy
• Attendance: 55540
M. Özil 90'+
M. Balotelli 20', 36'
You lot have been great as always. Feel free to hit me on Twitter via @woodstome if you'd like to keep this going. But thanks for joining Goal.com for all the action. Peace out.
I'm sure you can't wait for that game either.
The German players are applauding their loyal fans inside the stadium. Everybody in a white shirt looks utterly dejected. The better side, by a distance tonight, will face Spain in Kiev on Sunday night.
What. A. Game. That was the most disciplined, controlled and creative display you could wish to see. A lesson in counter-attacking football from Italy. You never write them off, and they have just proven why.
FINAL WHISTLE! What a night for the Azzurri, and for Mario Balotelli. Germany's unbeaten record comes crashing down against their old foes. They still can't beat Italy in a competitive match. The Italians are into the final! ITALY 2-1 GERMANY!
90' + 5'
Barzagli wins another superb header ahead of Klose, and Germany are denied. That is that...
90' + 4'
Yellow Card Mats Hummels
90' + 4'
But Neuer heads the ball out of play! Time is up...
90' + 3'
Manuel Neuer is on the halfway line pinging balls into the box. This is intense.
90' + 2'
Penalty Goal Mesut Özil
OZIL SCORES! Calmly slotted into the top corner. For two minutes, Italy will have to sweat. ITALY 2-1 GERMANY.
90' + 1'
PENALTY GERMANY! Balzaretti is adjudged to have handled under pressure from Klose. Ozil to take...
90' + 1'
We're into the first of four added minutes...
Yellow Card Thiago Motta
Two big chances for Germany. First, Buffon blocks well from Hummels, and Bonucci back-heels the ball away. Then from the kick, Ozil has a volley from the edge of the box, but Buffon lets it bounce harmlessly wide.
Motta catches Schweinsteiger with a loose challenge, and earns a yellow card. The free-kick is played into the box, but there are enough Italian men back to deny Germany a clear chance.
Thomas Muller finds room to cross, but he can't find a white shirt, and a grateful Buffon makes another smothering stop. it aint going in for Germany.
I can't get over how good this Italy performance has been. Prandelli's side have been simply superb on the ball, and have kept their shape wonderfully. Germany's unbeaten record is coming to an end.
BALZARETTI! WHAT A TACKLE! Reus looked like he was going to pull one back there, but a stunning challenge from the Palermo player denies him. The right-back jumps up punching the air after he won the ball. And so he should.
Yellow Card Daniele De Rossi
Balzaretti heads the latest corner away to safety. And from the next one, Buffon punches away to Pirlo, who is the best player for the ball to fall to at this stage.
Moments later, Balzaretti slots the ball into the net, but is rightly called for offside as he makes the finish. Germany are all over the place.
DI NATALE! SITTER! The Udinese player is through on goal with nobody around him, but can't beat Neuer with a slipped finish. Italy are carving the Germans open on the break, and should have had 4 or 5.
Another long range effort from Diamanti, but it's well wide again. It's great to see the enterprise he has brought to this tournament. And I'm not just saying that as an Upton Park regular.
We are inside the last ten minutes of the game. As it stands, the mighty Germany are out.
Balzaretti wins the ball easily from Ozil on the near side, and hacks clear. Germany haven't found any way past the newbie right-back. Perhaps they haven't tested him enough.
With Di Natale playing on the shoulder of the centre back, Italy are very well placed to hit Germany on the counter-attack. They almost succeed here, with Pirlo finding Diamanti inside the area, but a slip stops the Bologna player from finding a cross.
Barzagli makes a good block from a Muller snap-shot, and Germany have a corner. The kick finds Mats Hummels, but the header is way over. Italy inch ever nearer...
MARCHISIO! MISSES! That should have been it. Again the Juventus player is presented the chance to win the game, as a slip by Badstuber gives him a great shooting chance. But he fires wide of the far post when he should have tested Neuer. I wonder if he will regret that...
Blimey, almost a mistake from Neuer, with Di Natale nearly nicking the ball off his toes. A snapshot of where Germany's heads are, I think.
Schweinsteiger pings a glorious pass forward to Klose, but Andrea Barzagli is up superbly to make a clearing header. Another towering performance from the Juve defender.
Here's the final change from Germany. Thomas Muller replaces Jerome Boateng in what looks a very attacking switch. Both sides have now used their full quota of substitutes. All bets have been placed.
Antonio Di Natale
So that's a slightly early exit for Balotelli, but whatever happens in this game, we have seen the best moments of his career to date. A star is well and truly born tonight.
The Man City striker elects to walk from the field, but he will have to be removed. Antonio Di Natale will come on in his stead.
Mario Balotelli is lying on his back, looking exhausted. In fact the stretcher is being brought on...
MARCHISIO! JUST WIDE! So nearly 3-0 Italy. Diamanti caps off a wonderful midfield move by playing the Juventus no.8 in on goal. He is under pressure, but still fires a thunderbolt towards the top corner. It is an inch wide of the post. Would have been curtains if that had gone in.
Diamanti has a go from the half-way line. Well, you never know. Neuer makes an easy catch from the bouncing ball, but you have to admire the thought. Judging by the look on Balotelli's face, I don't think he shares that sentiment.
Montolivo can be proud of his performance tonight. Which may mean more to him than most, as he has both Italian and German nationality. In fact it's widely reported that he wears the flag of each country on his shin pads. Just so you know.
Italy make another chance. Ricardo Montolivo trudges off and is replaced by PSG's Thiago Motta. Like for like swap, I would say.
SUPER SAVE BUFFON! That was going in from Reus. But from just under the bar, the Italian stopper gets a strong hand to it, and punches clear of his crossbar. Not yet for Germany.
Yellow Card Leonardo Bonucci
Bonucci concedes a free-kick for a trip on Kroos, and is booked. It's very central, and very much within shooting distance...
Balotelli wants a hat-trick, make no mistake. After taking the ball over on the right wing, he cuts inside his man, looks up to see two men in the box, and fires a shot straight at goal. It's only a whisker wide, and in this form, he has every right to have a go.
Fair play to the German fans. They are making a right racket. Wonder how many of them still have faith...
Italy are making their first substitution of the game. Cassano has had a good game here, but will make way for former West Ham Alessandro Diamanti. This was the change that worked so well against England. Can it be repeated?
GRANDE BONUCCI! As they say in Italy. That is a wonderful sliding challenge from the Juve man, as Klose looked to steal a yard in front of goal. Wonderful defending from Italy. Again.
There goes Ozil, as he skips to the byeline and pulls it back for the onrushing Khedira. It takes a FANTASTIC block from Barzagli to stop the midfielder slotting home from 5 yards. Excellent stuff.
And now it's keep ball time from Italy. Pirlo and Marchisio exchange a few zipped passes, with Germany chasing shadows. This is so well poised now. Euro 2012 is BACK.
But while Germany are doing that, Italy will have the chance to break. Antonio Cassano looks very lively on the ball, and almost finds Balotelli with a delicious dinked cross. Philipp Lahm just about smothers it, and fires away to safety.
Germany are flooding forward, and already Reus has had more touches that I think Podolski did in the first 45. Expect the white bar of those possession stats to get bigger and bigger...
BIG MISS FROM LAHM! That was such a chance. Schweinsteiger is the creator, and Kroos flicks his pass into the path of the German captain. But from 20 yards, he can't test Buffon, and sends his shot high into the stands. I don't think Germany can afford to miss those.
Opening for Reus... but he scuffs his shot. How frustrating for the 23 year old. For a brief second, he had left Chiellini for dead and had a real sight of goal. Let off for Italy.
Of course, what Italy do very well is win free-kicks, wasting precious time. If Germany are going to act, they need to act fast, and Joachim Low knows it.
We're back underway in Warsaw. Sit tight everyone.
Yup, they are. Marco Reus and Miroslav Klose are taking to the field here. Lukas Podolski and Mario Gomez making way. Very interesting, and very bold, changes there.
It looks like Germany will be making two changes at half-time.
Fair point from Tafanana Kwenda. Mesut Ozil could be key if Italy are going to get back into this. Trouble is, Italy knew that before the game, and have shackled the schemer incredibly well.
Goal.com's Mark Doyle is looking forward to the second half: "Buffon spoke yesterday about daring to dream, but even he could not have imagined that the Azzurri would be 2-0 up on Germany at the interval. It's been a truly remarkable first-half showing from the Azzurri. Balotelli has proven as devastatingly clincial as he was infuriatingly profligate against England. Cassano looks like a completely different player to the one who laboured about the pitch in Kiev, while Montolivo might start soon believing himself capable of playing the trequartista role if he continues playing passes like the one from which Balotelli deservedly doubled Italy's advantage. Germany look panicked but the one remaining fear is that fatigue might begin to take its toll on the Azzurri in the second half. It is therefore imperative that Cesare Prandelli's men withstand the almost inevitable German onslaught at the start of the second period."
Arian Poshka is pointing to Holger Badstuber as the fall guy here. He certainly got caught out for the first goal, and was left standing for the second. But I don't think any centre back in the world could cope with Mario Balotelli tonight.
A lot of you are calling for Miroslav Klose to enter the fray. It can only be a matter of time. But can they really find three goals against this determined Italian defence?
Migue - Mine's white no sugar. Ta.
And he's not done there... Cristian continues: "Ozil is marginalised out wide and Podolski and Gomez offer little creativity and movement. This could be Low's most decisive game as a manager. He needs to make the right changes at half time now. Klose and Reus/Muller need to come on and the players have to settle their nerves."
Cristian Nyari's half-time analysis: "Germany are 45 minutes away from yet another mental breakdown at the highest stage. Low emphasised concentration in this game and Germany have failed to show any. The first goal unnerved the team and the second destroyed any shape and confidence they had. The players are running around without much organisation and are vulnerable whenever Italy get forward."
henryswagkid still believes - "Germany can still come back" - he says. Good for you sir.
OK people. Mario Balotelli. Has anybody ever seen him play this well? Ever? And can Germany find their way back into this? Keep those thoughts coming...
HALF TIME. That will do very nicely for Italy. We knew they could trouble the Germans, but BOY have they delivered. Germany are not out of it by any means, but at the moment, they are second best all over the pitch. ITALY 2-0 GERMANY.
Not happening for Germany at all. Philipp Lahm finds some room on the edge of the box, the same position where he scored from against Greece. But here, he elects to run wide and send in a tame cross. Gomez is marshalled out of the way, and Buffon makes a joyful catch. He holds the ball aloft like a trophy.
Here's Cristian Nyari on what needs to happen next for Germany: "Germany are their own biggest enemy. They have completely lost their shape and concentration now. They are mentally all over the place now and Low needs to make some major changes at half time to get back into this game or else it is another semi final exit."
Antonio Cassano goes down after hurdling a challenge from Badstuber, and Germany sportingly put the ball out of play. Temporary break.
Typical. Daniele De Rossi goes sliding in on Khedira, and leaves the Madrid player in a crumpled heap. Totally fair tackle. Totally smashed his opponent.
Germany don't have a response here. They look shell-shocked. Italy have got in amongst their opponents tonight, defended aggressively, and kept the ball superbly. It's been a stunning performance from the Azzurri. Well worth their lead.
Balotelli ripped the shirt from his back as that went in, and is booked as a result. I don't think he will care. We are seeing the arrival of Mario Balotelli people. Lap it up.
Yellow Card Mario Balotelli
Assist Riccardo Montolivo
Goal Mario Balotelli
BALOTELLIIIIIIII!!! WHAT A FINISH! He is taking this semi-final by the scruff of the neck. Italy clear a corner, and a ball forward from Montolivo splits the German defence in two. Balotelli latches on to it and, BANG. A rocket into the top corner. Unstoppable. ITALY 2-0 GERMANY!
And now it's Germany's turn to go close. Sami Khedira, who we know can hit the ball, sends a wonderful volley towards goal, and Buffon makes a superb flying save. Phew.
SO CLOSE MONTOLIVO! Cassano kills the ball stone dead on the box, and plays in his teammate just inside the area. He should hit it first time, but hesitates, takes a touch, and Badstuber makes a crucial intervention. That looked like 2-0 for a minute.
I think almost every German player has had a go at getting the ball off Andrea Pirlo so far. Nothing doing. The Juventus playmaker looks simply imperious again. What a tournament he is having.
The reason for that, to be fair, is the excellent pressing that this Italy defence is carrying out on the German front four. The Italian defensive stereotypes come flooding back...
Toni Kroos has a chance to shoot...but slips. The ball zips fully ten metres wide, to roars of appreciation from the Italy fans. The Bayern man is making his first start of the tournament tonight, and is struggling to get into the game so far.
Here's Greg Stobart from inside the stadium: "It's the cheeky Polish locals who are roaring out chants of 'Italia', goading the Germany supporters after that Mario Balotelli opener. It was a dreadful goal for Joachim Low's side to concede from a defensive point of view but it was superbly worked by Italy - Balotelli may have been wasteful against England but that was a simple header for the Manchester City striker."
I think it's fair to say Mario Balotelli is enjoying this one. He seems to have won everything in the air tonight, including, of course, that all-important opening goal. What a time to make your mark on the national team.
That's better. Gomez brings a long pass down expertly, and lays it off to Ozil on the edge of the area. The Real Madrid man attempts to pass the ball into the net, but it lacks pace, and Buffon can make a simple save.
The same move again, and the same result. Boateng to Gomez, but the ball is far too straight, and the no.23 can only flick a header out of play.
Gomez gets across his marker to meet a cross from Boateng, but heads wide. Half-chance, but well off target in the end.
It's Italy, not Germany, who seem to have responded best to that goal. They come pouring forward again, and it takes three German players to block Marchisio's sight of goal. This match is fantastically poised now. Germany have to go for it.
So what about that unbeaten Italian record? Looking good so far eh?
Assist Antonio Cassano
Goal Mario Balotelli
BALOTELLI!!! Now Germany REALLY have something to think about. What a goal this is. A super passing move has Pirlo pick out Chiellini, who finds Cassano, who sends in a clipped cross towards the Man City bad boy. He is all over Badstuber, and plants a header firmly past Neuer. What a moment. ITALY 1 - 0 GERMANY.
CASSANO! That's the best moment for Italy so far. A lovely curling effort from the Milan forward is headed for the bottom corner, but Neuer comes flying across his goal to make a vital save.Gives something for Germany to think about, that.
Good effort from Montolivo. Cassano and Marchisio try to work an opening on the edge of the box, and it eventually finds the new Milan signing on the edge of the area. The shot is well hit, but just too close to Neuer. Better from Italy.
Boateng gets a chance to show off, intercepting De Rossi's through ball with a neat back-heel over to Hummels. Lovely stuff, and it demonstrates the growing confidence that Germany are showing here.
Here's Goal.com's Mark Doyle on the opening phases: "Reasonably encouraging start from an offensive perspective for Italy, with Cassano drifting out to the left to good affect, Montolivo taking up some decent positions in the pocket and Pirlo already picking out a decent pass for Balotelli, who was immediately made aware of the fact that in Hummels he is going up against a terrific defender. However, while Germany have not picked the wide players we expected, they are looking to exploit the space out wide at every opportunity and Balzaretti is already looking a tad uncomfortable at right-back. Plenty of attacks coming down Chiellini's side too. Early days but somewhat ominous nonetheless."
Germany have been sparked into life by that chance. Gomez has his first opening of the game, winning the ball on the edge of the box with his back to goal, but he is dispossessed by a strong challenge from Bonucci. Italy defending well here, but they do look like they have a mistake or two in them...
MISTAKE BY BUFFON! That was almost an opening for Germany. Boateng makes the overlap and sends in a wicked cross, and Buffon can only knock the ball into the retreating Barzagli. Almost a horrible own goal there, but the ball rolls just wide.
That is a wonderful pass from De Rossi. With a first-time, sweeping movement, he sends the ball effortlessly up towards Balotelli. Hummels is marking the no.9 tightly, however, and can make the interception.
More good defending from Italy. This time Chiellini is alive to a threaded pass from Ozil, and makes a very timely block. Some great energy on show from the Azzurri so far. Can they keep it up?
Podolski attempts an audacious through ball to Gomez, but it's far too overhit, and Buffon collects calmly. No touch for the Bayern striker so far.
Despite that chance, Italy are still shading the play so far. That midfield four is trying to ping around some neat triangles, with Balotelli and Cassano moving dangerously ahead of them.
CHANCE GERMANY! The kick finds centre-back Mats Hummels, but the big man can't get a great connection on the ball. The ball is blocked on the line by Pirlo, and gathered by a very grateful Buffon. That was close.
Germany attempt to test makeshift right-back Balzaretti, and come off second best. The Palermo player goes in hard and fair on Podolski to concede a corner...
Hmm. Balotelli's movement already looks sharp, and he is very close to getting on the end of Montolivo's through-ball there. Manuel Neuer is out quickly to gather.
First opportunity for Balotelli to chase a long ball forward, and it results in the Man City striker pushing Holger Badstuber to the floor. Free-kick Germany.
It's been a tidy start from Italy, who are stroking the ball across midfield with confidence. Andrea Pirlo, surprisingly, is at the heart of things.
THREE....TWO.....ONE.....and we're underway. FOOTBALL.
OK, that's that out of the way. Time for kick-off. Your referee tonight is Stephane Lannoy of France.
Before kick-off, both team captains will speak out in favour of UEFA's 'Respect Diversity' campaign. Very noble I'm sure.
From a purely objective point of view, who's the most attractive player out there? If I was pushed, I think I'd say Jerome Boateng. Any advance?
That was rather lovely. Now for the Germans: “Deutschlandlied” (Song of Germany)
Gianluigi Buffon could not look more intense if he tried. Wow.
And here come the national anthems. First it's Italy: ‘Il Canto degli Italiani’ (The Song of the Italians)
The sides are greeted by a HUGE reception from this Warsaw crowd. Doesn't look to be an empty seat in the house.
The teams are on their way out. Oh boy oh boy oh boy.
Congratulations to Arun Raj G, who is our first Italy backer of the night. 2-1 to the Azzurri, he says.
One constant inspiration to the Italians has of course been 33 year-old Andrea Pirlo, playing perhaps his last international tournament and putting in the kind of displays that will be remembered for generations. So far, the Juventus man has utterly dominated the midfield zone in each of Italy’s four games, keeping the best that Spain, Croatia or England have to offer firmly in the shade. There is more to this Italian side than Pirlo, but when a true genius of the game steps up to shine on the world stage, it’s only fitting to pay him due reverence.
Italy’s route to the semi-final has been somewhat less imperious. After a tremendous display against Spain in the opening group game, Prandelli’s side have flirted with disaster, throwing away a lead against Croatia and only progressing from the group on head-to-head records. They then needed penalties to overcome a resolute England side, in a game that saw the Azzurri miss copious chances on goal. The point is, however, that they got through. The Italians always seem find a way through, and under Prandelli they are unbeaten in competitive matches. In a game of this magnitude, with the technical qualities of these players, you must never, ever, write them off.
Let’s recap how both sides have got to this stage of Euro 2012. For Germany, it’s been a near perfect tournament thus far, with a 100% winning record, and nine goals scored by seven different players. Attacking threat comes from all over the pitch, and in Mesut Ozil, they have a playmaker at the very top of the world game. Many people’s pick for the title before a ball was kicked, they have done nothing to dissuade anyone of these convictions, and after beating Greece, broke an international record by winning their 15th straight match. They will take some serious stopping here.
More reaction to that German team from Goal.com's Greg Stobart, inside the stadium for us tonight: "Much excitement among the German press about the selection of Toni Kroos although some are disappointed that Marco Reus has to settle for a place on the substitutes bench. The Germany midfielders and attackers are looking sharp as they go through passing and shooting drills on the edge of the penalty area, with Lukas Podolski in particular launching torpedoes into the back of the net."
Don't think I've seen a single Italy prediction from you lot. Who wants to be first?
One thing’s for certain. At no point during this game will you be seeing two banks of four.
The midfield is so often the all-important battleground at this level, and tonight is no exception. Disrupting the opponent’s shape will be a huge weapon for either side tonight, and both will try to impose themselves in the middle of the park early on. It will be interesting, in particular, to see whether Italy De Rossi will be pulled into a more defensive role, to cope with the movement of Germany’s front four. Equally, Andrea Pirlo will be looking to draw out one of the German central midfielders, creating the space for him to play those killer diagonal balls.
Here’s what Goal.com’s Cristian Nyari makes of that German lineup: “Huge surprises by Löw. He did well to conceal the lineup from the press. Kroos is the biggest surprise here, most likely meant to help against Italy's midfield four, theoretically a smart inclusion but a big surprise nevertheless. The inclusion also puts into question Germany's shape and formation, could be anything from a 4-3-1-2 resembling Italy or a 4-3-3 with Ozil playing more on the right.”
ITALY (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Balzaretti, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; Pirlo, Marchisio, De Rossi; Montolivo; Cassano Balotelli
GERMANY (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Boateng, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm; Khedira, Schweinsteiger; Kroos, Ozil, Podolski; Gomez
For Italy, Cesare Prandelli makes an enforced change to the team that overcame England in that draining quarter-final. Ignazio Abate is ruled out through injury, meaning Federico Balzaretti fills in at right-back, and the returning Giorgio Chiellini joins the left side of a four-man defence. The 3-5-2 formation used by the ex-Fiorentina coach at the start of this tournament now looks to be a thing of the past. The rotating diamond midfield, energised by Daniele De Rossi and orchestrated by Andrea Pirlo, will be key to the Azzurri’s fortunes tonight, while upfront, Mario Balotelli has a chance to underline his undoubted ability on one of the biggest stages of all.
First the Germans. After sitting out the quarter-final stroll (well, it was) against Greece, Joachim Low has restored Lukas Podolski and Mario Gomez to his starting XI, alongside Bayern Munich’s Toni Kroos. Marco Reus and Andre Schurrle, who proved to be stupidly good replacements that night, will have to make do with the bench tonight. Both highlighted the immense strength in depth of this Germany squad however, and their time will come. Miroslav Klose will have to wait a little while longer for his 65th international goal, while Jerome Boateng continues at right-back ahead of Lars Bender.
Anyway, TEAM NEWS ahoy! Here are your lineups for tonight’s game.
Goal.com’s Mark Doyle notes that Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon will equal Dino Zoff’s record of 24 games in goal for the Azzurri at major international competitions tonight. What a servant he has been. And still one of the best in the business.
One thing is for sure, however. With Spain awaiting tonight’s victors, we can be guaranteed a serving from the European top table in Sunday’s final, whatever the outcome here.
If tonight’s encounter replicates either of the above matches, we are in for a treat indeed. Speed, precision, power and agility, expect all of that tonight and more – just don’t ask me to predict a result.
These two also produced to a game that has since been dubbed ‘game of the 20th century’ - the World Cup semi final of 1970, won 4-3 by Italy. With five goals in extra-time, in front of a crowd of over 100,000, it’s hard to argue with such testimony. The world remembers Brazil’s stunning display in the final, but were it not for the titanic effort that went into this semi, it’s arguable that Italy would not have allowed the Samba Boys to express themselves so freely.
The most recent, and poignant example of this record is the World Cup semi final of 2006, which set an Italian side beset by match-fixing scandals against a free-flowing German side, made favourites for the tournament after some devastating attacking football. Not at all like tonight then. Several of tonight’s players featured on that night in Dortmund, and memories of Italy’s 2-0 extra-time win will serve as strong motivation for both sides, for very different reasons.
30 times these sides have met over the years, in a fixture dating all the way back to 1923. Italy have managed to win 14 of these matches while only losing seven, and are unbeaten against Die Mannschaft in competitive internationals. Omen? The Azzurri will certainly hope so.
I’m Tom Woods (@woodstome) and it’s my honour and privilege to be bringing you tonight’s action. To your right you will see our chat box, where I’ll be looking for your comments, predictions and banter as the night goes on. Share with me your desires, and I’ll reward you with your name up on the live feed. Let’s have it.
Welcome to Goal.com’s LIVE commentary from the penultimate game of Euro 2012. It’s the second semi-final between Germany and Italy, two sides with a serious habit for international success, boasting eleven World and European titles between them. Both teams bring a fearsome reputation to this match, and neither is going to relinquish their European Championship dream without one heck of a fight. I cannot flipping wait.
Boring Spain. Negative England. Penalty shootouts. Martin Keown. After such a wonderful group stage, Euro 2012 has come in for a bit of flak lately. But that all stops here people. That all stops right here.
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