Mario Balotelli led Italy to a convincing 2-1 win over Germany last night, all of the goals coming in regular time. Italy thus advances to the Euro 2012 final against Spain on Sunday.
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Italian forward Mario Balotelli (L) scores the second goal during the Euro 2012 Germany vs Italy semi-final match at the National Stadium in Warsaw. AFP
Balotelli stars as Italy reaches final
WARSAW: 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.
Italy are now unbeaten in eight competitive matches against Germany and the enigmatic 21-year-old Balotelli's double was the major reason for that.
Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (C) makes a save. AFP
What made Balotelli's semi-final show extra special was that his adoptive mother was in the stands and whom he embraced at the end.
“My mother was in the stadium and my father was watching it on television,” said Balotelli.
“I scored two goals in front of my mother and I would like to score four in front of my father in Kiev in the final!
“My favourite moment was when I embraced my mum after the match.”
Balotelli, who went joint top of the scoring chart with three goals as he grabbed one in the 2-0 win over the Irish in the group stage, was lauded by Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, who has been like another father figure to him.
"He (Balotelli) was excellent, just like the entire team were," said Prandelli.
German midfielder Sami Khedira (L) vies with Italian midfielder Claudio Marchisio. AFP
"I really believe that a team needs to have an idea in the way they play and he really subscribed to this playing style. He was high up the pitch and available and I think he put in a very good performance this evening."
In Italy Balotelli's 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.
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.
Mario Balotelli (L) receives a yellow card for taking his jersey off after scoring. AFP
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 Prandelli who has been urging him all tournament to try to get behind the defence to stretch the opposition.
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 first goal.
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.
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.
Mario Balotelli scores past German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. AFP
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.
Germany's only goal of the match came in the 91st minute on a penalty caused by a Federico Balzaretti hand-ball in the area. Mesut Ozil slotted home the goal easily but it was too late and too little. AFP
semi-final (or semifinal) – one of the two games that are played immediately before the last game in a sports competition. The two people or teams who win the semifinals play each other in the last game, called the final, to decide who wins the competition การแข่งขันกีฬารอบรองชนะเลิศ
deliver – to do what you what you are expected to do; to produce or provide what people expect you to ทำตามความสามารถ
promise – a sign that somebody/something will be successful ลักษณะหรือท่าทีที่ดี
take centre-stage – to do something which catches people's attention
unbeaten – not having lost in a single competition ไม่เคยแพ้
enigmatic – mysterious and difficult to understand ยากที่จะเข้าใจ, ยากที่จะอธิบาย
double – achieving two of something, in this case, scoring two goals
adoptive – of someone who has legally adopted a child ที่เกี่ยวกับการรับเลี้ยงบุตรบุญธรรม
embrace – to hold someone tightly with both arms to express love, liking or sympathy, or when greeting or leaving someone การสวมกอดอย่างรักใคร่, การโอบกอด
favourite – something you like the best of all similar things ที่ชอบมากที่สุด, ที่โปรดปราน, ของโปรด
joint – done together; belonging to or shared between two or more people ที่ร่วมกัน, ความร่วมมือกัน
group stage – the opening part of a tournament where the teams are put into groups and compete against other group members. The top teams (usually two) then go on to the next stage.
laud – to praise somebody/something ชมเชย
father figure – an older man that somebody respects because he will advise and help them like a father
subscribe to – to agree with or support an opinion, a theory, etc. เห็นพ้องกับ, เห็นด้วยกับ
pitch – an area painted with lines for playing particular sports, especially football สนามฟุตบอล
available – able to do something ใช้ประโยชน์ได้
performance – the standard to which someone does something การทำให้บรรลุผลสำเร็จ
potential – qualities that exist and can be developed ศักยภาพที่จะพัฒนาได้
instinct – the way people or animals naturally react or behave สัญชาตญาณ
head home – to score a goal using the head
cross – (in football) the action of kicking the ball from one side of the field to someone in the middle or on the other side เตะบอลขวางสนาม
gamble – to take an action that involves risks but will bring important benefits if it is successful เสี่ยงโชค, เสี่ยงทาย
smash – to hit or kick something very hard
unerring – always right or accurate ไม่ผิดพลาด, ไม่คลาดเคลื่อน, แม่นยำ
confidence – the quality of being certain ความมั่นใจ
urge – to advise someone very strongly about what action or attitude they should take ผลักดัน, กระตุ้น
stretch – to cause something to reach, often as far as possible, in a particular direction ขยายออก, ยืดออก
opposition – a team you are competing against คู่ต่อสู้
majestic – impressive because of size, ability or beauty สง่าผ่าเผย
dictate – to influence or control how something is done ควบคุม บงการ
tempo – the speed at which something happens จังหวะ
constant – continuous; all the time ต่อเนื่อง
thorn in the side – an annoying problem that won’t go away
defence – the players who must prevent the other team from scoring; the position of these players on the sports field ผู้ป้องกัน
fancy – unusually complicated; intended to impress other people ไม่ธรรมดา, งดงาม, วิเศษ
pirouette – a fast turn or spin that a person, especially a ballet dancer, makes on one foot การหมุนตัวบนเท้าเดียวหรือปลายเท้า
attention – the interest or thought that you give to something you are doing, listening to or watching ความเอาใจใส่, ความสนใจ, ความตั้งใจ
build-up – a series of passes in preparation for an attack on goal
retain – to keep รักษา
possession – control of the ball การครองบอล
feint – (especially in sport) a movement that is intended to make your opponent think you are going to do one thing when you are really going to do something else การเสแสร้ง, การแกล้งทำ, การทำกลลวง
twist (body) – to bend or turn your body – บิดกาย
hips – the area below the waist and above the legs at either side of the body, or the joints which connect the legs to the upper part of the body ตะโพก
contribution – something that you do that helps to achieve something or to make it successful ผลงาน,การช่วยเหลือ
steal the show – to attract more attention and praise than other people in a particular situation
brace – two goals in a single game
take responsibility – to be serious about your duty to do something มีความรับผิดชอบ
strip off – to remove something ถอด
booking – an occasion when a football player’s name is officially recorded by the referee because he or she has broken a rule
demonstrate – to show something clearly by giving proof or evidence พิสูจน์, แสดงให้เห็นจริ
finished article – something or someone who is completely developed without major weaknesses
the area – the penalty box; the area in front of the goal เขตโทษ
slot – to put something into a space that is available, in this case, to shoot the ball into the goal ใส่ลงในช่อง