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Home » Sport » UEFA Euro 2012

Balotelli double stuns Germany

The enigmatic Manchester City striker netted twice in 16 first-half minutes to clinch a place in Sunday's showpiece alongside defending champions Spain.

The shell-shocked Germans looked more dangerous after introducing Marco Reus at half-time, but they were unable to penetrate a resolute Italian defence until Mesut Ozil's injury-time penalty.

After his impressive display against England, Andrea Pirlo was again central for the Azzurri, and the midfielder was perfectly placed to clear Mats Hummels' scuffed effort off the line on five minutes as Italy started nervously.

Gianluigi Buffon then unconvincingly cleared a Jerome Boateng cross before proving equal to Toni Kroos' effort from outside the area, as Germany continued to ask questions.

Manuel Neuer eased himself into the game with two routine saves, but he was helpless on 20 minutes when Italy took a shock lead.

Antonio Cassano easily turned inside Hummels and crossed to the awaiting Balotelli, who soared over the wrong-footed Holger Badstuber and headed home from close range.

Sixteen minutes later the Manchester City striker went one better. Riccardo Montolivo's ball bamboozled the German defence, which gave Balotelli time to rifle a dipping 20-yard shot past Neuer.

Germany piled bodies forward after the break and Buffon twice denied Reus, while captain Philip Lahm spurned a great chance following a one-two with Toni Kroos.

Claudio Marchisio and Antonio Di Natale should have sealed victory when presented with gilt-edged opportunities, but despite Ozil's spot-kick, Italy held on to maintain their unbeaten record over Germany in competitive games.

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