Expert analysis of the events in Poland and Ukraine
Back of the Net
The Back of the Net view on Germany 1-2 Italy
Italy stormed into the final of the European Championships on Thursday night, withstanding a late fightback to record a highly impressive 2-1 victory over Germany. The game was marred, however, by the absence of any eagerly-expected clownish antics from Italian striker Mario Balotelli.
Balotelli, whose previous role in the team was simply to pull outrageous stunts and caper ineptly after lost causes, left fans deflated by scoring two clinical goals to give his side an unassailable lead – then compounded the disappointment by not falling over when through on goal, not getting sent off for dissent, and not grievously injuring a team-mate while arguing over a free-kick.
“What Balotelli did is unacceptable,” fumed spectator Lucas Chapman, 28. “I expected to see a figure of fun, a talented but ultimately risible court jester throwing his team’s chances away with his moody, adolescent petulance.
“Instead, all we saw from Balotelli was relentless teamwork, steely determination, and a brace of lethal finishes. I didn’t spend good money to watch the coming of age of one of the game’s most thrilling talents on the biggest stage imaginable. It’s a disgrace.”
Balotelli acknowledges Neuer with sickening maturity
Many fans are still clinging to the hope that Balotelli’s 20-yard rocket was a wildly miskicked fluke, and that his 36th-minute bullet header was actually an attempt to control the ball with his tongue. But most seem resigned to the fact that the Balotelli they knew and cherished is gone forever.
“Naturally, I’ll be hoping that Spain goad him successfully in the final and that the monstrous, volatile manchild re-emerges,” Chapman added. “Otherwise I’ll have to find my Balotelli entertainment from elsewhere, like if he falls over, or if he misses a penalty.
“I suppose I could conceivably just appreciate the sheer, breathtaking natural ability of one of the most gifted young strikers to emerge in the past 10 years,” he conceded.
“But when you’re dealing with a guy who any minute might do something mental, like wear his pants over his shorts, or have a haircut, why get bogged down with boring details like how good he is at football?”
More match reports from Back of the Net:SPA 0-0 POR: Portugal combat 'slightly less good Spain' tag by playing like Spain, only slightly worseITA 0-0 ENG: England lament justice of penalty shoot-outESP 2-0 FRA: France fail to turn up, turn up, fail to turn up, loseGER 4-2 GRE: Germany put long-suffering fans through slight discomfort POR 1-0 CZE: Ronaldo: "Ronaldo? Ronaldo, Ronaldo. Ronaldo!"
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The Back of the Net boys file their final report: Spain 4-0 Italy Spain added yet another title to their
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