Euro 2012 Live Blog: ‘Super’ Mario Balotelli’s Two Goals Power Italy Past Germany, Into Final

Euro 2012 Live Blog: 'Super' Mario Balotelli's Two Goals Power Italy Past Germany, Into FinalFinal, 2-1 Italy: Italy has pulled off one of the biggest shocks of Euro 2012. The Azzuri knocked the Germans out of the tournament many expected them to win.

Mario Balotelli's goal explosion will go down as one of the great feats of strength in this tournament. But Italy's effort was a collective one.

Germany had its chances to take control of the game early on, but it failed to do so. Balotelli and Cassano struggled at the outset, but Italy scored once they finally clicked. The Germans responded with aggression and Balotelli scored again off a counterattack.

Italian soccer players are trained to hold leads from the cradle to the grave, and this brave group did just that. Italy earned a deserved place in Sunday's final, where it will meet Spain.

That's all for now and thanks for joining us. Let's discuss this one on Twitter @NESNsoccer and Facebook. Be sure to keep an eye out for some news, fan reactions, analysis and opinion that is on the way on NESN.com.

92nd minute, 2-1 Italy: Balzaretti and Barzagli both use their hands in the area, but the referee can only award one penalty.

He does, and Ozil duly scores from the spot.

It's probably too little, too late for Germany.

86th minute, 2-0 Italy: The Germans are adopting a "shoot-on-sight" policy.

If and when they are able to whip crosses into the Italy area, the deliveries fall into a sea of blue. Italy is on its way to the final, and it's thoroughly deserved.

80th minute, 2-0 Italy: Pirlo is controlling this game from the midfield. He's done the same throughout Euro 2012.

Anyone surprised by his success clearly didn't watch enough of Juventus in the 2011-12 season.

77th minute, 2-0 Italy: Marchisio has another chance to put Germany away, but he couldn't direct his shot to the inside of the far post.

A third goal for Italy still looks more likely than a German first.

72nd minute, 2-0 Italy: Muller has come on for Boateng. It looks like Germany is going for broke.

It will play with three defenders at the back, and we all know Lahm will go forward.

70th minute, 2-0 Italy: Balotelli was cramping up. He makes way for Di Natale.

67th minute, 2-0 Italy: Marchisio takes a pass at the top of the Germany area, but he can't put his shot on target. A third goal would seal the win for Italy.

Italy is sitting deeper than it did in the first half, but it remains dangerous on the counterattack.

65th minute, 2-0 Italy: Montolivo, the creator of Balotelli's second, is coming off. Motta takes his place.

62nd minute, 2-0 Italy: Reus has a free kick saved by Buffon.

Germany has kicked into a higher gear, but the Italian defense is holding firm.

54th minute, 2-0 Italy: Has anyone seen Schweinsteiger? Aside from the hand-ball a minute or two ago, he's made zero impact on this game.

He should be the engine of the Germany midfield, but it seems that ankle injury that has bothered him for months has muzzled him.

51st minute, 2-0 Italy: "Rolls" Reus seems to be up for the challenge.

Much of Germany's early pressure has come through the 23-year-old forward.

46th minute, 2-0 Italy: Germany is making some changes at halftime. Reus is coming on for Podolski, and Klose replaces Gomez.

Germany boss Joachim Low is rolling the dice here.

Halftime, 2-0 Italy: Who saw this one coming? Honestly? Germany was the favorite of just about everyone to win this game, but finds itself down by two goals at the break.

Balotelli and Italy weren't psyched out by the German menace. Aside from Buffon's shaky early moments, Italy was every bit as good as Germany in the first half.

Balotelli was particularly dominant. The player who far too many Italians won't accept as one if its sons will become a national hero if this result holds.

40th minute, 2-0 Italy: For all you doubters out there, this is the reason we have written so much about Balotelli this season.

If you don't believe us, google "site:nesn.com Balotelli" and see what you find.

He's already a star. He's now taken two giant steps toward superstardom.

36th minute, 2-0 Italy: Italy punishes Germany on the counterattack.

Balotelli took a pass from Montolivo (the Italian with a German mom, his cleats are pictured), beat the offside trap and hit an absolute lightning bolt past Neuer from 18 yards out.

He took his shirt off in celebration and was promptly booked.

34th minute, 1-0 Italy: Germany's having a serious problem.

Its most dangerous service into the area has come off the right foot of … Boateng. The center back turned fullback is swinging crosses in from the right.

Germany would rather anyone else assume the playmaking duties in this situation.

30th minute, 1-0 Italy: Germany has upped the tempo since the goal, but Italy is keeping its shape well.

20th minute, 1-0 Italy: Balotelli heads in a cross from Cassano to give Italy the lead.

Cassano tricked and dribbled his way past Boateng on the right. Badstuber was caught slightly out of position. He couldn't (in his mind) jump to head it and lost track of Balotelli.

"Super" Mario Balotelli powered it past Neuer from point-blank range to score his second goal of the tournament.

19th minute, 0-0: Germany is showing a whole lot of respect for Pirlo.

Podolski, Gomez and Kroos are all dropping into the center to harrass him. What they are not doing is stretching the field and getting behind the German defense.

13th minute, 0-0: Buffon fumbles it along the line again, and he dodged a bullet.

Boateng delivered a cross across the face of goal, and he simply dropped it. Barzagli was there to knock it away before Khedira could pounce.

Is it possible that Buffon was too fired up for the game?

Eighth minute, 0-0: De Rossi is fouled by Podolski in a midfield duel.

The two (young-ish) veterans exhange the dirtiest of looks.

Fifth minute, 0-0: Pirlo really does it all. He clears an effort from Hummels off the line.

Buffon made a serious error on the corner kick, leaving the goal open. Hummels knocked it toward the goal, but the 33-year-old Pirlo was standing on the line to knee it away.

Pregame: There aren't any real shocks in Germany's lineup. Kroos comes in for Muller, who has failed to match his exploits at the 2010 World Cup.

Gomez and Podolski return to the starting 11 after they were rested for most of the quarterfinal victory over Greece.

It's much tougher to tell what Italy boss Cesare Prandelli is up to. He has tinkered with his defense throughout Euro 2012, and continues to do so against Germany.

At any time in the game, Italy can have anywhere from three to five defenders along its back line. De Rossi has been known to sit back with the central defenders and stifle attacks. What is certain is that Chiellini, one of Italy's top defenders, has shaken off the hamstring problem that kept him out of the quarterfinal win over England to re-take his place in the starting 11.

There is plenty of star-gazing for fans to do in this game. But it may be worth focusing on the goalkeepers. Buffon has been one of the world's best for over a decade. Neuer is already among the best in the game and is widely expected to stay there for the next decade.

Schweinsteiger and Pirlo are two of the great midfield conductors. They will try and dictate the tempo and put their teammates in position to succeed. We have to wonder how Schweinsteiger's ankle problem and the 120 minutes Pirlo played against England will affect their performances.

2 p.m.: Here are the lineups:

Germany

Manuel Neuer (1), goalkeeper
Jerome Boateng (20), right back
Mats Hummels (5), center back
Holger Badstuber (14), center back
Philipp Lahm (16), left back
Sami Khedira (6), midfielder
Bastian Schweinsteiger (7), midfielder
Toni Kroos (18), midfielder
Mezut Ozil (8), midfielder
Lukas Podolski (10), forward
Mario Gomez (23), striker

Substitutes

Tim Wiese (12), goalkeeper
Ron-Robert Zieler (22), goalkeeper
Marcel Schmelzer (3), defender
Benedikt Howedes (4), defender
Per Mertesacker (17), defender
Ilkay Gundogan (2), midfielder
Mario Goetze (19), midfielder
Lars Bender (15), midfielder
Andre Schurrle (9), forward
Thomas Muller (13), forward
Marco Reus (21), stiker
Miroslav Klose (11), striker

Italy

Gianluigi Buffon (1), goalkeeper
Federico Balzaretti (6), right back
Andrea Barzagli (15), center back
Leonardo Bonucci (19), center back
Giorgio Chiellini (3), left back
Daniele De Rossi (16), midfielder
Andrea Pirlo (21), midfielder
Claudio Marchisio (8), midfielder
Ricardo Montolivo (18), midfielder
Antonio Cassano (10), striker
Mario Balotelli (9), striker

Substitutes

Salvatore Sirigu (12), goalkeeper
Morgan De Sanctis (14), goalkeeper
Angelo Ogbonna (4), defender
Ignazio Abate (7), defender
Thiago Motta (5), midfielder
Emanuele Giaccherini (13), midfielder
Antonio Nocerino (23), midfielder
Alessandro Diamanti (22), midfielder
Fabio Borini (17), forward
Sebastian Giovinco (20), forward
Antonio Di Natale (11), striker

12:00 a.m. ET: Germany and Italy meet on Thursday in the semifinal of the 2012 UEFA European Championship. The two traditional powers made clean breaks with their respective pasts to reach this point. What happens next will go a long way toward shaping the future of soccer.

Historically, Germany has mixed power with ruthless efficiency to get results at major tournaments. But the current team has added flair and imagination to those longtime traits. Many believe this group of German players is on the cusp of European — and possibly global — domination.

Germany is the in-form team of world soccer. It has won its last 15 competitive games, including all four at Euro 2012. It was the only team in the competition to achieve that feat, and the confidence of German players, coaches and fans is reaching the point of overflow. A win on Thursday would put Germany in position to win its first major tournament since 1996, and create a model that the world will strive to copy.

Standing in the way is Italy. The soccer-mad country has produced winning teams throughout the generations, and it does so by any means necessary. Italian teams achieved great success with a "defense-first" mentality (also known as catenaccio or "door bolt") in a previous era. It was fully content to grind out results in close games. 

But the current Italian team has played with a balance and openness that marks a new style for the historic power. A win would put it in the final, where the current generation of Italians may walk in the (fine, hand-crafted leather) shoes of past giants and take a place in the pantheon of greats.

The youthful Germans have the advantage of two extra days' rest. They beat Greece 4-2 in overwhelming fashion on Friday. On Sunday, Italy beat England on penalty kicks after sweating through 120 scoreless minutes.

Germany seeks to defeat Italy for the first time — after six failed attempts — at a major tournament. It intends to impose its style and will, as German teams are wont to do, on the opponent. Italy will stress balance but promises to take risks against the tournament favorites. The world will be watching as two powers, who have reshaped how the game is played in their countries (and around the world) face off.

Join us right here for Germany-Italy. We'll have all the action starting at 2 p.m.

Have a question for Marcus Kwesi O'Mard? Send it to him via Twitter at @NESNsoccer, NESN Soccer's Facebook page or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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