Italy and Germany played in a semi final matchup today in Warsaw Poland's National Stadium.
I settled in with a large gathering at OB Clarks, ready to be entertained by the Germans thrilling attack, perhaps pounding three or more goals into the Italians net.
What happened was completely unexpected. The Italians seemed in every way dominant in this game, and they were rewarded 20 minutes into the match with a Mario Baletelli powerful head ball goal. That goal put an exclamation mark on the fact that Italy was to be taken seriously. Only 16 minutes later, Mario Balotteli drilled a long shot into the net and at 2-0 the shock turned into amazement.
German fans shown on ESPN were stunned. One German woman with German flags painted on her cheeks was caught with a tear streaming down her face. And this was "only" 36 minutes into the game!!! But in soccer, 2-0 is not easy to come back from.
The Italians continued to dominate the attack for the rest of the game. The Germans, it surely seemed would be ready to mount a powerful 25 minutes of all out effort to tie the game. But for some reason, the Italians continued to run with extra fuel. Their level of fight and energy never let up, while the Germans seemed lifeless and disorganized, never mounting the expected comeback push.
The Germans did score a penalty kick goal in the last minute of the game. But the 2-1 scoreline is deceiving. Italy could have won this game 4-0. It was complete domination. I have not usually been a fan of the Azzuri (Italy's nickname for their 'blue' jerseys), but I have really enjoyed this Italian team. They did not come into the tournament with odds of much success, but they have played attacking, attractive soccer. They have won me over, and if they can play one more game like today, they would be deserving of Euro champions!
Italy's key players:
See article and video clip of Andrea Pirlo on ESPN. Pirlo, who at 33 years old is having an amazing tournament, and seems to be calm in all situations, was described in the article as, "Mick Jagger could not trot around a football field with a greater degree of cool." Great story about an Italian soccer player in the twilight of his career.
Goalkeeper Gianluigi Baffon has been great in goal for the Italians.
These are just two players to watch on a very good Italian team that will meet Spain Sunday, July 1st to decide the European Champion.
European Football Quick Facts:
- Italy has owned Germany in major tournaments. Italy is now 4-0-4 against Germany in major tournaments!
- Italy has won four World Cups, but only one European Championship
- If you look at the crest on the jersey of a nation's team, they will have a "star" for each World Cup won. See photos attached at top of article. So today's game had 4 World Cups for Italy, versus 3 World Cups for Germany. By the way, the decorative (not solid) stars on U.S. jerseys' are not for world cup victories, unfortunately!
To see a nice slideshow of some game and fan pictures, click here.
Should be a long night of celebrating in Italia!
Sunday July 1st, 1:30pm: Spain's "La Roja" (red) versus Italy's Azzuri (blue) in the 2012 European Championship!