WARSAW — The Germans have never beaten the Italians in a major soccer tournament, and after what happened here in Poland’s new National Stadium on Thursday night, they must despair whether they ever will.
In an enthralling semifinal match of the Euro 2012 championships, with both sides roared on by their fans and both teams going for the victory from the first whistle, Italy won, 2-1. Both its goals had one name written on them: Mario Balotelli.
He performed as if he had not heard that this was the best team that Germany has produced in decades. It had racked up a record 15 successive victories in competitive games, and it arrived here with the swagger of expectant champions.
By halftime, it was clear that one Italian in particular had Germany’s measure.
‘‘At the end of the game when I went to my mother,’’ Balotelli said immediately after the game. ‘‘That was the best moment. I told her these goals were for her.’’
Italy advanced to play Spain in Sunday’s final in Kiev.
In 1982, and again in 2006, Italy went to World Cups under a cloud, and won them both. Could it be happening again?
If it is, one has to give all the credit to coach Cesare Prandelli. He preaches a positive game, and picks players other may never dare.
The first goal was a beautiful amalgam of that. It actually began deep in Italy territory, where Andre Pirlo was shoved. Rather than go down, he wheeled around and fed one of his laser-beam passes out to Giorgio Chiellini on the left.
Chiellini did the simple thing and helped the ball on to Antonio Cassano. This was where the magic began.
Cassano has been delivering with increasing cunning, game by game. His turn was too smart for Mats Hummels, his cross was measured for the 6-yard box, and when Holger Badstuber mistimed its flight, Balotelli was there, heading the goal with fearsome power.
So that makes him Super Mario again, no longer the unreliable volcanic Balotelli that plenty of critics said Prandelli was a fool to trust?
Maybe one goal does not excuse all, but a second might.
Italy sprang this one the length of the field. Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon beat out a corner kick, straight to the red-shoed Riccardo Montolivo. He looked up, saw Balotelli lurking, and struck the ball 35 yards from left to right to him. Balotelli took it on his chest, turned, outran the remnants of the German defense, and lashed the ball high into the net. This one was absolutely merciless in its force and direction.
Germany’s goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer had no chance, and he did the decent thing: He actually applauded the strike that so comprehensively beat him.
Those goals, at 20 and 36 minutes, devastated the Germans.