Spain has chance to make history in Euro 2012 championship match Story Highlights Spain could be the first with a World Cup and two Euro titles at the same time

June 30, 2012

“What’s at stake when Spain meets Italy in the Euro 2012 final here on Sunday? For the Spanish, the final (ESPN/3/Deportes, 2:45 p.m. ET) provides the chance to take their place in soccer lore as one of the greatest national teams in the history of the sport. No country has ever held two European Championships and the World Cup trophy at the same time. And for all the talk of Spain winning without playing at its best, you just can’t argue with three major titles in a row.” SI

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Honigstein: ‘Mr Nice Guy’ Low must be ruthless to save Germany’s golden generation

June 30, 2012

“A big part of the attraction of international tournaments is that they seemingly render a very complicated game into an ‘open source code’: millions of casual viewers feel that they can confidently talk about a team by conflating it with the country it represents (‘I like Denmark’) and/or attaching neat, stereotypical labels to them. The mainstream media reinforce this fake familiarity by trotting out the tired old cliches, in the mistaken and deeply patronising belief that their audience prefers catch-phrases to more serious analysis.” Raphael Honigstein


Cristiano Ronaldo, Paulo Bento, And The Optimal Penalty Shootout Order

June 30, 2012

“Cesc Fabregas breathed deep, took a long run-up, and slammed his penalty kick in off Rui Patricio’s right-hand post. Spain are through to the Euro 2012 final, and Portugal are out. Nine kicks were taken in the shootout; none were taken by Cristiano Ronaldo.” SD Nation (Video)


Italy-Spain Euro final promises to be clash of polar opposites

June 29, 2012


“The final was supposed to be a battle between the two schools of proactive soccer. On the one side Spain, the increasingly cautious protectors of the ball, a side that has used its mastery of possession to prevent the opposition from playing; on the other, Germany, having moved away from the reactivity of the last World Cup, playing in a more carefree way. It’s a battle, in a sense, between the bloodless purists and the more visceral entertainers.” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Euro 2012: Now Spain have entered the pantheon of greatness
“It has been repeated over and over that no side has ever won three major tournaments in a row – which is true so long as you exclude the Olympic Games. That may be reasonable in recent times when it has been an Under-23 tournament with added overage players, or even in the years after the second world war when differing definitions of amateurism gave the Eastern Bloc sides a huge advantage. But in the years up to the second world war, the Olympic Games was at least as serious a tournament as the World Cup. If Spain win the Euro 2012 final on Sunday, they will set a new record for the modern era but their feat will only equal that of Uruguay, who won the Olympics in 1924 and 1928 and the World Cup in 1930, and of Italy, who won the World Cup in 1934 and 1938 and the Olympics in 1936.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


Scoring the Goals That Sank Germany, Balotelli Says it Loud: He’s Black, Italian and Proud

June 29, 2012

“‘There are no black Italians!’ went the chant by some far-right supporters of Italy’s national football team a couple of years ago when young Mario Balotelli made his debut for the national side. Well, the bad news for the racists that still make their voices heard in some of Italy’s stadiums, is that if there are no black Italians, their Euro 2012 semifinal against Germany would have been a 0-1 defeat.” Keeping Score

Mario Balotelli brings Euro 2012 its sweetest, most profound moment
“The sweetest moment of Euro 2012 didn’t fit the script. In the celebration after Italy’s 2-1 semifinal win over favored Germany on Thursday, Azzurri striker Mario Balotelli made a pilgrimage to the stands of the National Stadium in Warsaw and embraced a small, aging Italian woman in the front row. So fearsome on the field, so ready to project anger and strength, the 21-year-old Balotelli melted in her arms like a gentle giant.” SI


Euro 2012: Joachim Loew says Germany will learn from Italy defeat

June 29, 2012

“Germany coach Joachim Loew says his players are distraught after their Euro 2012 semi-final loss to Italy, but says they will learn from the experience. Loew’s young team began as favourites in Warsaw but lost 2-1 to a Mario Balotelli-inspired Azzurri side.” BBC


Italy 2-1 Germany: Balotelli double

June 29, 2012


“Jogi Low tried to change his shape to compete in the centre of midfield, but Italy produced an excellent performance to qualify for the final. Cesare Prandelli kept his diamond system. Giorgio Chiellini returned at left-back, but Ignazio Abate was unfit, so Federico Balzaretti moved over to an unfamiliar right-back role. Jogi Low had decisions to make in his front four, with only Mesut Ozil sure of his place. Mario Gomez was chosen ahead of Miroslav Klose, and Lukas Podolski was selected rather than Andre Schurrle. But the real surprise was in the other role, as Toni Kroos came into the side. That was an attempt to deal with Italy’s midfield diamond, but Germany didn’t have the right structure in the centre of the pitch and were disappointing for long periods.” Zonal Marking

Germany 1 Italy 2: match report
“Short of climbing in a fountain or disappearing off on the back of a Vespa, Mario Balotelli could not have conjured up La Dolce Vita more for Italy on Thursday night. Balotelli lit up the National Stadium with two magical goals and a rare smile to send Italy through to Sunday’s final of Euro 2012, where they meet Spain. Always beware a man on a mission. Balotelli certainly was, ripping apart Germany’s defence, and then celebrating with his mother Silvia at the final whistle. And always beware a team with a cause. As in 2006 when they won the World Cup on German soil, the Italians seemed on a mission to restore the reputation of their great footballing nation in the wake of a fixing scandal. They played superbly on Thursday night, all through-balls and fine finishes in the first half and resolute defending and occasional breakaways in the second.” Telegraph – Henry Winter

Italy’s unexpected win over Germany
“Mario Balotelli can always be counted on to put on a show. The question has always been: Would it help or hurt the team? In Thursday’s Euro 2012 semifinal against Germany, it was definitely the former, as he scored two first-half goals to give the Azzurri a 2-1 victory, and with it a place in Sunday’s final against Spain. It was a victory that Italy fully deserved, yet one that was also unexpected, even when the quality of the Azzurri’s roster is taken into account. Germany entered the match as a considerable favorite, had two days more rest than the Italians and appeared to be operating at peak form.” ESPN (Video)

Balotelli’s electrifying performance lifts Italy past Germany, into final
“Three thoughts after Italy’s 2-1 victory against Germany in the Euro 2012 semifinals, which sets up an Italy-Spain final on Sunday: • Mario Balotelli: the man, the myth … After two straight 0-0 snoozefests at Euro 2012, the most interesting man in world soccer brought the tournament back to life, scoring two powerful goals, including a thunderous finish on the break that crushed the favored Germans. Balotelli is a polarizing figure who often seems on the edge of madness, or at least yellow and red cards — and sure enough, he got a yellow for taking his shirt off after his second goal — but you can’t ignore his surpassing talent.” SI

Euro 2012: Mario Balotelli double stuns Germany and sends Italy to Kiev
“It was the night Mario Balotelli announced himself as a serious, grown-up footballer capable of shaping the biggest occasions. There have been plenty of times he has threatened it before but never with so much efficiency and clinical, sometimes devastating, centre-forward play, or the unmistakable sense that he can be trusted when the heat of the battle is dangerously close to intolerable.” Guardian