ITALY coach Cesare Prandelli was adamant his players’ pride in representing their country was the inspiration in reaching Sunday’s European Championship final following the most professional of performances against tournament favourites Germany.
Two impressive finishes from Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli proved sufficient in sending Italy through to face 2008 winners Spain and though Prandelli was keen to highlight his side’s togetherness, he reserved particular praise for his precocious striker.
“We have played an extraordinary game,” said Prandelli, for whom masterful midfielder Andrea Pirlo was again exceptional. “We have given an example of how to show grace and an attachment to the shirt.
“[Balotelli’s] brilliant, but this was a team effort. We played a fantastic game against a really good side. We did those things that put the opponents in difficulty. The career of Mario Balotelli has only just begun.”
It was in the 20th minute when Balotelli headed Italy in front and just 16 minutes later he doubled their lead with an explosive finish from Riccardo Montilivo’s pass.
Germany responded through Mesut Ozil’s stoppage-time penalty but it was by then already too late.