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Friday, 29 June 2012 00:55

Balotelli sends Italy past Germany

Mario Balotelli struck twice as Italy once again proved Germany's nemesis, Cesare Prandelli's side holding on in Warsaw to set up a final against Spain.

Italy once again proved to be Germany's nemesis after Mario Balotelli struck two first-half goals to set up a UEFA EURO 2012 final against Spain on Sunday.

Joachim Löw's side came into the semi-final full of confidence having swept all before them in Poland and Ukraine, but perhaps lingering at the back of their minds was the fact that Germany had never beaten the Azzurri in seven competitive meetings. That tally is now eight after Italy produced a wonderfully measured performance with Balotelli at the its heart.

Cesare Prandelli's side neutralised Germany's dynamic approach, and found their No9 in clinical form. The striker headed his side in front midway through the opening period and doubled the advantage nine minutes before half-time. Germany threw everything at their opponents after the restart, but their breakthrough came too late, Mesut Özil converting an added-time penalty that only offered fleeting hope.

Prandelli has describe his side as a work in progress but, after surviving a nervous opening, they were soon looking like the finished article. In the early stages, only Andrea Pirlo's torso stopped Mats Hummels giving Germany the lead, and then Andrea Barzagli watched helplessly as Gianluigi Buffon's parry ricocheted off him and just past the post. Italy soon found their stride, though.

The busy Riccardo Montolivo forced Manuel Neuer to stretch, before Antonio Cassano had the goalkeeper going the other way. Özil and Toni Kroos, on his first start of the tournament, tested Buffon again, but the Azzurri were looking the more dangerous side. In the 20th minute, they made it count. Pirlo, ever the instigator, swung the ball out to left-back Giorgio Chiellini who fed Cassano. The No10 tricked Hummels and delivered an inviting cross. With the door was wide open Balotelli merely needed to put his head on it as it flashed past Neuer. It was Italy's first UEFA European Championship semi-final goal in their fourth appearance.

Germany reacted as expected for a team who had won a world record 15 straight competitive games. Özil made Buffon work, and Federico Balzaretti just cleared Jérôme Boateng's dangerous centre. Prandelli has urged his team to resist sitting on a lead on all tournament, and the second duly came – although it was a classic Azzurri counterattack.

Buffon had just made a flying save from Sami Khedira, and batted away the resulting corner which Montolivo picked up. The new AC Milan recruit looked for Balotelli straight away, his ball over the top evading Philipp Lahm, and the striker sped away to rifle a shot into the top corner for a finish every bit as emphatic as his first.

Löw had proved in his starting XI he was not scared to tinker with his personnel, and made changes at half-time, Marco Reus and Miroslav Klose coming on. Reus's first involvement was a effort on goal and then Lahm could only lift his shot over when well placed. Özil got to the byline, but Khedira got in a tangle.

Buffon's fingertips just did enough to send a Reus free-kick on to the bar and away to safety, yet Balotelli was still a menace at the other end and Claudio Marchisio nearly made it three on two occasions. As German belief ebbed away, Antonio Di Natale had a clean run on goal only to fire wide.

Balzaretti handled in his own area with time running out and Özil finally beat Buffon, but it merely offered forlorn hope. Löw's side may have been the tournament's great entertainers, but it is Italy who are in Sunday's final after once again being Germany's bogey team.

www.uefa.com

Published in News

Italy beat Germans deservedly with two super goal from Super Mario Balotelli (20` and 36`) against 92` penalty goal from Germany capitan Philip Lahm.

Andrea Pirlo wins Man of The Match award at the end of the game.

Let's have good days before Sunday final and cheer again for our Azzurri.

more news for later...

Patrick Tehrani

Published in News

Italy finish the first half 2-0.
Goals scored on 20` and 36` by  super Mario Balotelli.

Let's have a great second half...

Published in News
Thursday, 28 June 2012 20:38

Confirmed lineups: Italy - Germany

Italy starting XI: Buffon; Balzaretti, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini; De Rossi, Pirlo, Marchisio; Montolivo; Balotelli, Cassano.

Germany starting XI: Neuer; Boateng, Badstuber, Hummels, Lahm; Khedira, Schweinsteiger; Kroos, Ozil, Podolski; Gomez.

Published in News
Thursday, 28 June 2012 20:18

Azzurri ready for Germany clash

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli says his side are ready ahead of their crunch Euro 2012 semi-final against Germany on Thursday.

Prandelli's side have exceeded expectations by reaching the last four at Euro 2012 following their dreadful 2010 World Cup.

After finishing second in Group C and then beating England on penalties in Sunday's quarter-final, Prandelli's unbeaten side now face the tough task of Germany, who have won each of their games to date.

"I have good sensations. We are ready. This is a match of strong emotions and big expectations," Prandelli told Italy's Rai TV in his traditional pre-game interview.

The Italy boss also admitted he will consider his future whatever happens in their clash with Germany.

The former Fiorentina manager, who replaced Marcello Lippi as Azzurri boss after the World Cup, has a contract with the national side until 2014 but has long said that he misses the cut and thrust of club football.

"I have a contract that links me to the national team until 2014 and I have a very good relationship with everybody," he said.

"I have always said that I miss the training pitch, let's let the Euros finish and we will consider everything."

Published in News

Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini has been passed fit for Thursday's Euro 2012 semi-final clash against Germany, his brother and agent has declared.

The Juventus man has been out of action since picking up a hamstring strain in the group match against Republic of Ireland - an injury which saw him miss the Azzurri's quarter-final win over England.

Italy doctor doctor Enrico Castellacci stated on Tuesday that he was optimistic about Chiellini's recovery, and the 27-year-old's representative has now intimated that his client could feature against the Germans.

"I can say that Giorgio is again at the disposal of coach Cesare Prandelli, has recovered from his injury and could be on the pitch against Germany," Claudio Chiellini told Sky Sport Italia.

"I hope that he can start, but this will depend on the coach's selection and the system that he picks.

"This was a delicate injury, but Italy's doctors did a great job to recover him in record time."

Chiellini played in all of Italy's group matches at Euro 2012, where the Azzurri picked up two draws and one victory.

www.goal.com

Published in News

Italy boss Cesare Prandelli has admitted that he will go to bed on the eve of his side's Euro 2012 semi-final clash with Germany and dream of a "wonderful, fantastic evening" in Warsaw for the Nazionale.

The Azzurri will enter the last-four encounter as underdogs, with Die Mannschaft having won their last 15 competitive games.

However, just hours after captain Gianluigi Buffon urged his team-mates and the Italian nation to dare to dream, Prandelli intends to do just that before the game.

"When I close my eyes and dream, I always dream of fantastic things," the 54-year-old coach told reporters at his pre-game press conference. "I will dream about a wonderful, fantastic evening."

Much has been made of the fact that Italy have had two days less to prepare for the match in the Polish capital but Prandelli insists that his players cannot allow themselves to be bogged down by such talk.

"We're all fit both mentally and physically," the former Fiorentina coach stated. "I don't think we can have any negative thoughts.

"We can't think we're even a little bit tired. All the ingredients are there to make sure we feel as we did a few days ago."

Indeed, Prandelli believes that Italy simply have no choice but to be braced for a high-tempo game, as he expects their opponents to put them under intense pressure right from the off and given them little space in which to work.

"We need to work on how we move around the pitch and free up a key player like [Claudio] Marchisio, [Daniele] De Rossi or [Riccardo] Montolivo," he explained.

"We're ready to be pressed high up the pitch and know what we have to do to counteract this. They have a very defined style of play and we know what their strengths are."

Germany are viewed as favourites for the match as they head into this game on the back of four victories in as many matches in Poland and Ukraine, but Prandelli insists that Italy will not take a defensive approach to the game.

"People are saying tomorrow will be an open game but we cannot just sit deep," he explained. "We have worked on this for two years and it would be a shame to waste it and change our playing style."

Italy have managed just four goals in their four games so far, but Prandelli revealed that he will not be placing any undue pressure on his misfiring forward line.

"I'll say very little to my strikers," he stated. "But the message will be simple: try to put the ball in the back of the net. We have to keep creating opportunities as that means we're more likely to score goals."

Prandelli was then asked about his opinion on controversial striker Mario Balotelli, and the 54-year-old coach admitted that he is seeing improvements in the Manchester City ace's behaviour.

"I have no real problems with Mario, but it is interesting to figure out what goes on in the head of a 21-year-old young man," he said.

"In terms of his behaviour and mentality, I have noticed he has changed radically with us.

"The fact he wants to see his brother every day is great. I am very curious to see what sacrifices this young man is prepared to make to become a great footballer."

Italy's mouth-watering clash with Germany on Thursday will get underway at 20:45CET.

www.goal.com

Published in News
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 21:52

De Rossi: Pirlo is a genius

Daniele De Rossi has labelled Italy team-mate Andrea Pirlo a genius ahead of Thursday's Euro 2012 semi-final clash with Germany.

Pirlo has been the focus of much of the build-up on account of his influential displays to date and Sunday's stunning scooped penalty in the shoot-out success over England.

De Rossi has nothing but admiration for the Juventus midfielder but he is keen to point out that Cesare Prandelli's side have many strings to their bow.

"When there's a genius player in a team then the opposition will always need to keep an eye on them," the Roma man told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday.

"But even though Pirlo has been our most consistent player, we have other players who can hurt Germany."

De Rossi is a doubt for the game in Warsaw with the sciatic nerve problem that forced him off in the quarter-final victory over England.

However, the 28-year-old is optimistic about his chances of passing a late fitness test, admitting that he would be willing to play through the pain.

"I would hate to miss out because of an injury," De Rossi confessed. "It's not that I'm a hero, I just hate missing matches.

"I've got a bad back but I have faith and am confident I'll make it. I'll do everything in my power to be available for tomorrow."

Italy's last-four encounter with Die Mannschaft will kick off at 20:45CET.

Published in News
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 21:49

Buffon: Italy must dare to dream (Facebook)

Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon has issued a rallying cry ahead of Thursday's Euro 2012 semi-final showdown with Germany.
On the eve of the country's biggest game since the 2006 World Cup final, the Juventus goalkeeper took to Facebook to remind both his team-mates and the nation that nothing is impossible for those who dare to dream.

"There comes a time in life when there remains nothing to do other than take your own path and follow your dreams; this is a duty of every single individual," Buffon wrote.

"Too often we are addicted to and left numb by the negativity that surrounds us; too often we are resigned to a fate that others want to assign us, and almost always stop dreaming once we reach the age of maturity or upon reaching a certain position and a job that gives us independence but does not stimulate our imagination and our senses.

"As a child I dreamed of becoming a footballer; as a young boy I dreamed of becoming the goalkeeper of the national team and Juventus; at around 20 I wanted to win the Scudetto; when I arrived at 25, the Champions League and the World Cup; at 30, to win back the league titles with Juventus and the European Championship.

"The majority of these fixed targets I have achieved, even if something is still missing. I never know if I will realise them, but I have the firm conviction that the only way to do it is to want them; live them intensely even when they seem like Utopian dreams. Without dreams one is not living, one is surviving. Without dreams you are not the driving force in your life, but you are only a faded figure who has accepted your existence, without alarms, without surprises, without life.

"Coming here to Poland and thinking of playing a semi-final was unthinkable, at least in warm-up, but we believed in ourselves; we really wanted it; we desired it, and every sacrifice was made with a view to achieving our goal!

"Now the obstacle seems insurmountable - it probably will be - but now that we have come so far we must dare to go a little further ... towards the DREAM ... towards the JOY ...

"Forward, Italy!"

Published in News
Wednesday, 27 June 2012 20:50

Italy memories of Euro Semi-finals

Italy stars of yesteryear share their semi-final memories with UEFA.com as the Azzurri prepare for Thursday's UEFA EURO 2012 last-four encounter with Germany.

Italy are hoping to reach the final of this competition for the third time, and the first since UEFA EURO 2000, but Cesare Prandelli's charges first have to overcome the mightily impressive Germany in the second semi-final in Warsaw on Thursday. Azzurri stars of previous tournaments shared their semi-final memories.

05/06/1968 Italy 0-0 USSR (aet, ITA won on coin toss) (Naples)
Giacinto Facchetti: In those days there was no provision for a penalty shoot-out after the end of extra time. The match had to be decided by the toss of a coin. In sporting terms, you can't talk about a great victory if you've won on a coin toss. But Italy had played almost the entire match with ten men due to an injury because, at that time, the substitution of an injured player wasn't included in the regulations either. Another of our players was suffering with severe cramp during extra time so we finished with nine and a half men.

So I think it can be considered as sporting justice that Italy won the coin toss. The referee pulled out an old coin and I called tails. It was the right call and Italy were through to the final. As soon as the toss had been completed I went racing upstairs – because the dressing rooms were at basement level – to celebrate. The stadium was still full and about 70,000 fans were waiting to hear the result. My celebrations told them they could celebrate an Italian victory. And the public really celebrated because it meant we were in a final for the first time in 30 years.

22/06/1988 USSR 2-0 Italy (Stuttgart)
Paolo Maldini: It was like a dream for me because I hadn't played much in the Italian national team. I had played only three games before we went to Germany in 1988. We had a very young team and it was fantastic to reach third place. The tournament was not just a dream – it was also a valuable experience that taught me a lot of things for the future. It was a beautiful experience for us young players.

29/06/2000 Italy 0-0 Netherlands (aet, ITA won 3-1 on pens) (Amsterdam)
Francesco Toldo: As a fan you could rank that match at the top of your list – but for me the match was nice and emotional but not at top spot in my personal list. It was a magic match, that's for sure. The whole stadium was orange with only a small section of blue Italian fans. There were six penalties taken and only one scored. It's just unbelievable how that game unfolded.

We lost one of our players after 20 minutes, so we played the match with ten men. But we had our chances, especially with the two counterattacks started by [Alessandro] Del Piero, who could have scored a goal in those moments. And it was Italy's best performance of that tournament, also because we were coming off a bad run after EURO '96 and the 1998 World Cup. With that game we brought the Italian fans closer to the national team again.

www.uefa.com

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