Italy 2-1 Germany

Prandelli: Italy must be respected

Coach hails extraordinary performance

ESPN staff

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli warned Euro 2012 final opponents Spain that his side must be respected after defeating Germany 2-1 to book a place in Sunday's showpiece.

Two first-half goals from Mario Balotelli prolonged Italy's remarkable record in this fixture - they have never lost a tournament game to Germany - while Mesut Ozil's injury-time penalty was nothing more than a consolation.

Joachim Low's side, one of the pre-tournament favourites, never got to grips with Italian playmaker Andrea Pirlo, or Balotelli, who gave his most dynamic display in an Azzurri shirt.

And Prandelli was purring over the performance as he warned Spain, who Italy drew 1-1 with in the group stages, not to underestimate his charges.

"The last 15 minutes saw us waste two chances to make it 3-0 and some players had nothing left, so we were forced to defend, but overall it was an extraordinary performance," he said.

“We did what we wanted to and thought could cause problems for Germany, playing through the middle with Riccardo Montolivo and above all the one-against-one with Antonio Cassano.”

Prandelli paid tribute to mercurial striker Balotelli, with whom he is rumoured to have had several disagreements at Euro 2012, after the Manchester City striker became the tournament's joint-top scorer.

The Azzurri coach also said Spain would start as favourites in Kiev this weekend, but demanded maximum commitment from his players.

“Balotelli’s career has just started," he said. "Spain are the favourites in terms of experience and consistency, but we are in there.

"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.”

Defender Giorgio Chiellini, who recovered from a thigh injury to reclaim his place, said it was a dream to be in the final.

“To be honest, 10 days ago it was just a dream to be here and I must thank the medical staff for getting me back so quickly," he said.

“We are certainly living a dream and with us millions of Italians. We want to keep dreaming and make it come true on Sunday. We will enjoy this victory for a few more minutes, but then our thoughts go to the final.”

"Tradition or not, the present is what counts and we believed from the start. I don’t know about others, but we were convinced we could win this game and had everything to trouble Germany.

“It’s natural they have great players and were dangerous, but we defended well and in all honesty 3-0 would’ve been a fitting result."

Chiellini said his focus had now switched to beating Spain and sealing Italy's first European Championship since 1968.

“This was a stepping stone and now we have the final peak to conquer," he added. "We believed in this dream from the start to the 95th and now we want to lift that trophy.”

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