Euro Flashback: Super Mario sends Germany packing
Throughout Euro 2020, LiveScore will be reflecting on classic games from previous tournaments. This time we turn the clock back to the summer of 2012 and a memorable semi-final between Germany and Italy in Warsaw.
A heavyweight battle
As one of the pre-tournament favourites, a lot was expected of Joachim Low‘s Germany and up to this stage, they had delivered.
After controlling their group with a perfect record of three wins from three, they then brushed aside Greece 4-2 in the quarter-finals.
Cesare Prandelli’s Italians did not have it as easy – they needed a victory in their final Group C clash to finish as runners-up before defeating England on penalties in the last eight.
Both sides knew going into the match that a win would see them take on defending champions and World Cup holders Spain in the Kyiv final.
With just one goal to his name, enigmatic frontman Mario Balotelli had been noticeably quiet, especially by his famously explosive standards.
Sporting his now iconic bleach-blond mohawk, if there was any man who was going to stand out, it would be the Manchester City star.
Throughout the 69 minutes he was on the pitch, he, along with his Azzurri teammates, terrorised the German backline.
Twenty minutes in, after an exquisite turn and cross from Antonio Cassano, Balotelli calmly headed home to cap off a beautiful move.
Why always him?
Germany, hot on the back of a world record-breaking run of 15 consecutive international wins, responded with a period of pressure but could not make it count.
Nine minutes later, Balotelli made sure the headlines would be all about him.
He got the better of Philipp Lahm and broke the offside trap following a Riccardo Montolivo long-ball.
Now one-on-one with Manuel Neuer, he made absolutely no mistake and venomously fired a shot into the top corner.
What followed was every bit as memorable as the famous “why always me” shirt reveal against Manchester United.
With his shirt off and arms flexed by his sides, Super Mario had announced himself at Euro 2012 and didn’t Die Mannschaft just know it.
Wave after wave of German attacks were thwarted by the stubborn Italian backline, battling as brave as Roman warriors two millennia before them.
Clear opportunities for Lahm and Marco Reus were squandered, Gianluigi Buffon continued to stand firm and further defensive reinforcements were introduced by Prandelli.
Germany’s supporters had travelled in big numbers and were thrown a lifeline in second-half stoppage time when they were awarded a penalty, following a handball from Federico Balzaretti.
Mesut Ozil stepped up and reduced the arrears from 12 yards, but it was too little, too late.
Low was quick to praise his opponents. He said: “They were just a bit better – you have to acknowledge that and they were more clinical than us."
In true German style, this disappointment helped them regroup and refocus. They had let the opportunity of a first European Championship title since 1996 slip away, but would be back with a vengeance.
They did not lose another competitive fixture until Autumn 2014, and by that stage, their talented pool of players had secured them a World Cup triumph in Brazil.