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Balotelli brace sends Italy into final

June 29, 2012 02:33 IST

Italy extended their remarkable stranglehold on Germany when two superb first-half goals by Mario Balotelli gave them a 2-1 win in an excellent Euro 2012 semi-final on Thursday and a place in Sunday's final against Spain.

Balotelli connected with a curling Antonio Cassano cross to head the opener after 20 minutes then ran on to a long Riccardo Montolivo pass before lashing in an unstoppable second after 36 as the Italians took full advantage of some loose defending.

Mario BalotelliThree times champions Germany, who had never beaten Italy in their seven previous major tournament meetings, rallied late in the game and Mesut Ozil converted a penalty in added time after Federico Balzaretti had handled in the area but it came too late.

Germany had earlier gone close when Gianluigi Buffon touched a Marco Reus free kick onto the bar after 62 minutes and had a deflected Mats Hummels shot cleared off the line in the early stages. But Italy grew in confidence and could have added a third goal when Claudio Marchisio twice shot just wide.

The final against holders and world champions Spain in Kiev is a rematch of the teams' group meeting that finished 1-1.

Photograph: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

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