Mario Balotelli finally delivered on his promise as he took
centre-stage in the biggest match of his young life to send Italy
into the Euro 2012 final against Spain on Sunday.
The Azzurri proved once again they have the Indian sign on
Germany as a superb double by Balotelli saw them to a 2-1 win -
the third time they have beaten Die Mannschaft in a major
They are now unbeaten in eight competitive matches against
Germany and the enigmatic 21-year-old Balotelli was the major
reason for that.
In Italy his coaches have been saying for years that he has the
potential to become one of the best players in the world but
until Thursday, he had yet to prove it.
But in two moments of clinical brilliance in the first half, the
Manchester City star buried Germany and made a mockery of the
pre-match betting odds.
On 20 minutes he showed a striker's instinct to find a yard of
space behind Holger Badstuber to head home Antonio Cassano's left
wing cross from six yards out.
And then nine minutes from the break he gambled and won as
Philipp Lahm failed to cut out Riccardo Montolivo's long ball and
the forward was away and running in on Manuel Neuer before
smashing the ball into the top corner with unerring confidence.
That showed he is learning and indeed listening to his coach
Cesare Prandelli who has been urging him all tournament to try to
get behind the defence to stretch the opposition.
And when Prandelli decided to switch to a more defensive five-man
midfield 10 minutes into the second period, it was Cassano who
was hauled off leaving Balotelli to play the disciplined lone
frontman role until cramp ended his night 20 minutes from time.
In truth he wasn't the only hero in a blue shirt as Andrea Pirlo
was majestic in dictating play and tempo while Cassano was a
constant thorn in the side of the German defence.
In fact it was his fancy footwork and pirouette to escape the
attentions of Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng that created the
space from which he could pick out Balotelli with a cross on the
And in the build-up it was Pirlo's ability to retain possession
and find space with a feint here and twist of the hips there that
left Mesut Ozil backing off.
That allowed the Juventus playmaker to rake a long ball out to
Giorgio Chiellini on the left, stretching the play before the
full-back passed to Cassano to dance through the right side of
Despite their important contributions, it was only right that
Balotelli should steal the show with his cool brace.
His team-mate Daniele De Rossi had called him an "ometto" last
week, an Italian word that means someone who is becoming a man
and starting to take responsibility.
That he certainly did but he then stripped off his shirt to
celebrate his second goal, a move that earned a booking,
demonstrating that he is not yet the finished article, either as
a player or a man.
On the hour mark he was guilty of going for glory and screwing a
shot wide when two runners had scampered into better positions
screaming for a pass.
But Italy held on and Balotelli, the errant wildman more known
for his madcap antics than his footballing prowess, finally made
his biggest headlines on the pitch.