Since his arrival in the Premier League, Mario Balotelli has been described as a man with two sides. ‘He can be Super Mario or Stupid Mario’ the saying goes. On Thursday night in Warsaw, Balotelli was very much his super alter-ego. His brace, coupled with another inspirational team performance saw Italy overcome Germany to book their place in the final. It required a little luck, a whole lot of grit and determination, and another brilliant display to seal a memorable win which now sees Cesare Prandelli’s men face Spain in Kiev on Sunday.
From the pits of the World Cup campaign in South Africa, the euphoria in Poland and Ukraine has emerged just two years later. It has been an incredible transformation and evolution under Prandelli, to whom much of the credit must go. No longer blessed with the talents of Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero or the like, this new group of players have shown they are committed to making their country proud whilst simultaneously playing a highly entertaining brand of football.
‘The important thing is we set an example of how much we care about this jersey and everyone should show respect when talking about Italy’ – Cesare Prandelli
Prandelli has injected new life into the national side, changing the mentality, personnel and tactical approach. The qualification campaign was impressive, yet only those inside the country and those with a keen interest out of it were aware of the new Italy. Fortunately, now on a global stage, the Azzurri have displayed their new strengths and are now reaping the rewards. It all began against Spain on June 10, and whatever the result, the tournament will end against Spain on July 1.
Questioned and perhaps quietly criticised ahead of the match for the lack of a clinical front pairing, it all seemed to click at the most important stage of the competition. The vision of Antonio Cassano and Riccardo Montolivo was complimented by the prolific nature of Balotelli’s goals, to which Germany had no answer, albeit Ozil converted a late penalty. With Andrea Pirlo striding around the middle of the pitch alongside the tireless duo of Claudio Marchisio and Daniele De Rossi, there seems to be a perfect blend and chemistry between the midfield quartet. Gigi Buffon and his defensive unit looked solid once more, with Leonardo Bonucci growing into the side along with club team-mate Andrea Barzagli, who deserves more recognition.
With the side in transition, little was expected from Italy at Euro 2012. An improvement on events in South Africa and a national side the country would fall in love with were detailed in Prandelli’s job specification. The former Fiorentina coach has done both, taking Italy much further than most would have predicted.
‘We are certainly living a dream and with us millions of Italians. We want to keep dreaming and make it come true on Sunday. This was a stepping stone and now we have the final peak to conquer. We believed in this dream, and now we want to lift that trophy’. Do we dare to dream with Chiellini? Spain stand in the way of what would be a simply historic achievement, can Italy complete the job and become champions of Europe?
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