Euro 2012: Balotelli brace sees Italy knock off Germany, advance to final

Euro 2012: Balotelli brace sees Italy knock off Germany, advance to final

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Euro 2012: Balotelli brace sees Italy knock off Germany, advance to final

Mario Balotelli (Getty Images)

Mario Balotelli silenced some of his critics on Thursday, scoring a pair of goals that booked Italy's place in the Euro 2012 final while defeating tournament favorites Germany.

Italy upset the Germans, 2-1, on Thursday courtesy of a first-half Balotelli brace. Balotelli thundered home a header in the 20th minute following some poor defending, and he scored the eventual winner 16 minutes later in spectacular fashion.

The result means Italy will take on Spain in the tournament final on July 1 in Kiev in a battle of the last two World Cup winners. The two nations met in the group stage of the tournament, playing to a 1-1 tie in Group C on June 10. Antonio Di Natale and Cesc Fabregas scored the goals on that day.

The Germans struggled to beat Azzurri goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who enjoyed another strong performance in the tournament after a shaky opening 15 minutes. In fact, Buffon was one his way to recorindg a cleansheet until Mesut Ozil converted a penalty kick in second half stoppage time.

Balotelli was the Italian hero, however. The controversial forward scored his second goal of the tournament and the game's opener on a headed effort that beat Manuel Neuer 20 minutes in.

Balotelli again beat Neuer in the 36th minute by beating an offside trap, racing in on goal and unleashing a rocket into the top corner that Neuer did not even attempt to stop.

Even after inserting Marco Reus and Miroslav Klose at halftime, the Germans were unable to respond until a penalty kick was given in the second minute of stoppage time.

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What do you think of Italy's 2-1 win over Germany? Surprised by how poor the Germans played? Think the Italians can beat Spain?

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