Mario Balotelli wrote another remarkable chapter in his amazing career as he fired Italy into the UEFA EURO 2012 final with a two-goal salvo against Germany in Warsaw, winning the game 2-1. The Manchester City man rose to power home Antonio Cassano's 20th-minute cross to put the underdogs in front.
Then he smashed an unstoppable shot past Manuel Neuer to double Italy's lead and take him joint-top of the Golden Boot standings. Mesut Ozil's last-minute penalty was not enough to prevent Germany's suffering their first defeat in a competitive game since their 2010 FIFA World Cup™ semi-final loss to Spain two years ago.
Indeed, it was their third semi-final loss in their past four tournaments, one of which, in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, came against tonight's opponents, who have still never lost to Germany in a competitive game, and now face Spain in Kiev on Sunday.
"Balotelli was excellent, just like the entire team were," said Italy coach Cesare Prandelli. "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."
On the second occasion he spotted Balotelli making his run, exploiting Philipp Lahm's failure to maintain the offside line. It took Balotelli a bit of time to get himself into a shooting position. However, as the ball sat up nicely, he smashed it past Manuel Neuer.
The Germany keeper had set himself to make a save. In the end, there was nothing he could do but stick out a limp hand and fall to the ground, powerless to do anything to prevent his goal being breached a second time. Balotelli was booked for removing his shirt as he attempted to celebrate with a moody pose.
He could not keep it up though and broke into a broad smile as he was engulfed by ecstatic team-mates. It was a performance that put English efforts - and Ireland's for that matter - into some kind of perspective.
Germany though were a shadow of their normal selves. Twice in the opening stages Gianluigi Buffon had fumbled close to his own line but they could not take advantage. Sami Khedira did launch a volley towards goal in between Balotelli's brace, but on that occasion Buffon was able to make the save.