Germany 1 (Ozil 92) – Italy 2 (Balotelli 20, 36)
Man of the Match – Mario Balotelli (Italy)
It’s a curse, or probably a jinx. Or just the fact that the Germans have become the biggest chokers at the international stage. Whether they choked or just buckled to a Balotelli masterclass is a whole another issue, but the Germans only have themselves to blame for their exit from the European Championships.
The only surprise in the German lineup was the inclusion of Toni Kroos in place of Thomas Muller. With coach Joachim Loew stating that Marco Reus, Miroslav Klose and Andre Schurle started against Greece, only because he felt the trio of Podolski, Gomez and Muller were not sharp enough in training, the German manager opted for a different attack up front.
There were no surprises in the Italian lineup. Giorgio Chiellini returned to the starting lineup, and took his place at left-back, with Balzaretti switching flanks to right-back.
The Germans, starting as favorites for the match, lest the tournament, started brightly, with Dortmund defender Mats Hummels shot, cleared off the line by Andrea Pirlo, with Gianluigi Buffon clearing the danger. Jerome Boateng’s cross was then fumbled over by Buffon, with Barzagli clearing narrowly.
However, the Italians slowly drifted into the game, with some neat midfield movements. Ricardo Montolivo first tested Manuel Neuer, and then Antonio Cassano’s shot was tipped around the post. Italy opened the scoring, when some fine interplay between Chiellini and Cassano on the left flank resulted in a Cassano cross, which ended up in the back of the net off a Balotelli header.
Germany still looked nervous, as the Italians upped a gear after the goal. A long ball from Ricardo Montolivo, over the entire German defence, fell perfectly into the path of Balotelli, with only Philip Lahm back scrambling for a challenge. Balotelli, however, kept his calm and struck a sweet shot into the back of the net. Game over, probably yes.
The maverick striker celebrated by removing his shirt and flexing his muscles, which earned him a yellow card. The second half began, with Germany replacing the ineffective Gomez and Podolski with Reus and Klose.
The Germans switched to a much more attacking formation, but it left them bare at the back. Boateng and Lahm was often found in the Italian half, and this allowed the Italians more space to exploit on counters.
Philip Lahm had the first chance of the half, when he was set up in a perfect scoring position. However, he only managed to blast it over. Marco Reus then struck a brilliant free-kick, but it was tipped over by Buffon.
Italy had their chances to kill of the game. Substitute Allesandro Diamanti played in Claudio Marchisio behind the German defence, but his shot was narrowly wide. He missed another chance, when a Badstuber slip allowed him to go clear on goal. However, his shot went wide. Antonio di Natale then got a chance, when he went clear on goal, but he could only find the side netting.
Germany by now, had shifted to a 3 man defence, with funnily enough goalkeeper Manuel Neuer playing as an outfield player in the dying moments. This allowed Balzaretti to put the ball into the back of the net. However, it was flagged offside.
Germany were thrown a lifeline late on when Balzaretti handled the ball in the area. Mesut Ozil scored off teh ensuing penalty, but it was too little too late, as Germany were eliminated, yet again from a major international tournament, after having done so well.
As for the Italians, they have set a date on Sunday, with a clash against the Spanish for European supremacy. Will Balotelli and Co. work their magic again, or will it be the Spanish who successfully defend their title.
Match Ratings – Germany
Neuer (7) – A good game, but let down by his defence.
Boateng (7) – Out of sorts last night. Was caught unawares far too often.
Hummels (7.5) – Had a decent game, bu still was prone to making errors.
Badstuber (6.5) – Had a poor game. Made too many lapses.
Lahm (7.5) – Fulfilled his attacking duties well, but defensive, not so much.
Kroos (8) – I thought he provided more dynamism in midfield, than Muller would have, but lacked the finishing touch.
Schweinsteiger (8) – Helped Germany win most battles in midfield.
Ozil (8) – A good industrious performance. Created plenty of good breaks.
Khedira (7.5) – A bit rusty last night, would be safe to say.
Podoslki (7) – Looked out of depth for once. Balzaretti had him wrapped up literally.
Gomez (7.5) – Struggled against the physical Italian defence. Didn’t have the pace to beat them either.
Klose (7.5) – Offered Germany that extra bit in attack, I thougt.
Reus (8) – This youngster will go places, but unfortunately didn’t happen for him last night.
Muller (7.5) – Did little to alter the pattern of the game.
Match Ratings – Italy
Buffon (8) – Made several key saves.
Balzaretti (8.5) – His versatility came to the fore last night. A dominant performance.
Bonnuci (8) – Unflinching defending.
Barzagli (8.5) – A good strong performance.
Chiellini (7.5) – Struggled a bit against Ozil and Boateng.
de Rossi (8.5) – Workhorse in midfield. Key performer last night.
Marchisio (8) – A good display in midfield.
Montolivo (7.5) – I thought he lacked a but last night, but overall there can be no complaints.
Pirlo (8) – You could see the Germans had a plan to stifle him out, but the peerless Pirlo was at his best again.
Cassano (8) – A hardowrking performance, and troubled the Germans time and time again.
Balotelli (9) – Two fantastic goals. What a player.
Diamanti (7.5) – Looked lively when he came on.
Motta (7.5) – Helped bolster the midfield.
Germany – 7.46
Italy – 8.03