The enigmatic Manchester City striker has blown hot and cold during the tournament so far but sparked into life in the semi-final opening the scoring with a bullet header before doubling the Azzurri’s lead with a scorching finish in the space of 16 first half minutes. Germany were off colour for the entire game but were handed a lifeline in injury time after Mesut Ozil converted a penalty but it proved too little, too late for Joachim Low’s men.
Cesare Prandelli’s side were underdogs coming into game but totally outclassed their opponents in every area of the field and should have put the game beyond doubt long before Ozil struck late on. Following his impressive display against England last week Andrea Pirlo was once again central to Italy’s play once again controlling the midfield with his exquisite movement and delectable passing range.
It took a while for him to start influencing proceedings as Germany started with the rapid tempo that has become their trademark in Poland and Ukraine and they should have been in front after five minutes. A corner from the left found Mats Hummels with the defenders scuffed effort beating Gianluigi Buffon from close range but was cleared off the line by none other than Pirlo.
Buffon looked shaky in the early stages, unconvincingly clearing Jerome Boateng’s cross, before comfortably saving Toni Kroos’ long range effort. Opposite number Manuel Neuer was then called into action twice in quick succession but was beaten after 20 minutes as Italy scored against the run of play. Antonio Cassano turned neatly between two defenders on the left and clipped a delightful ball into the area that Balotelli attacked with purpose, soaring above Holger Badstuber to power a header past Neuer.
And just before the break the Italy frontman went one better latching onto Riccardo Montolivo’s defence splitting past which game him time to compose himself and drive a dipping strike into the top corner from 20-yards. Low responded immediately withdrawing Lukas Podolski and Mario Gomez replacing them with Marco Reus and Miroslav Klose before the second half kicked off.
Germany piled forward in search of a goal but captain Phillip Lahm could only fire over from 15-yards after a near interchange with Kroos as the Italy defence remained stoic with some heroic blocks to deny their opponents. Buffon then did brilliantly to keep Reus’ free kick from creeping into the top right hand corner before Khedira’s effort was snuffed out at the near post after Ozil’s surge into the area.
Balotelli then exited with cramp before Claudio Marchisio and substitute Antonio Di Natale squandered the chance to put the game to bed in the closing stages. Federico Balzaretti then handled in the penalty area allowing Ozil to beat Buffon from 12-yards to set up a tense finale that Italy saw out comfortably to set up a meeting with defending champions Spain in Sunday’s final.