Aycliffe Today Sports Editor and Newton Aycliffe FC reporter Glen Robertson continues his daily Euro 2012 blog…
So close, and yet so far away.
The neutrals’ dream final of Spain versus Germany was within touching distance, but the inspired Italians stole the limelight with a terrific display.
Mario Balotelli – you may have heard of him before – scored twice to put the Italians into the final. They are the only side who have scored against Spain so far in the tournament, gaining a 1-1 draw in their opening game of the competition, and will now do battle with Xavi and Co. once more.
Germany had never beaten the Italians in a major competition before, but went in as heavy favourites after some sizzling displays at the finals. Toni Kroos, Bayern Munich’s talented attacking midfielder, made his first start of the competition, as the Germans tried to restrict Andrea Pirlo.
It did not work.
Pirlo will be a major front-runner for the player of the tournament award. Some will argue he should win the Ballon d’Or, after leading Juventus to the Serie A and going the entire league season unbeaten.
Not bad for a player who was released by AC Milan in the summer.
Italy will fancy their chances in the final against the Spaniards. They matched them in their opening group game playing a 3-5-2 formation. Italy’s success since has come playing four at the back and utilising a midfield diamond.
Manager Cesare Prandelli will have to decide which will be better suited to stopping the Spaniards in Kiev on Sunday.
As for the Germans, they go away knowing the starting line-up they used against the Italians can be used again at the World Cup in 2014 and the next Euros in France in four years time.
Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski and Philipp Lahm are the ‘veterans’ of their team. Their ages are 27, 27 and 28 respectively. Only substitute Miroslav Klose (34) might fail to make the finals in Brazil in two years.
Their young side should win a tournament one day. But after three semi-finals and a runners-up spot in their last four tournaments, they may start to think they are destined to be bridesmaids forever.
It’s now 16 years since they won a tournament. For a nation like Germany, that is a very long time.
But this tournament continues without the Germans. The final on Sunday promises to be a classic.
Spain versus Italy was one of the best group games in the tournament. Hopefully Sunday’s clash is a bit more entertaining than the World Cup final in 2010.