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Sunday dinner in Kiev with Spain was the prize for the winners of tonight’s second Euro 2012 semi-final. Would it be Germany or would it be Italy? We had live minute-by-minute updates of the action in Warsaw.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on tonight’s game. E-mail niall@thescore.ie, tweet @thescore_iepost a message to our Facebook wall, or leave a comment below.

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Germany 1-2 Italy

Good evening dear friends and welcome to the penultimate game of this summer’s European Championships. Yup that’s right, it’s almost time for this circus to pack up and roll out of time but before we’re left with nothing but memories, there are a couple of very important issues still to settle.

Not least among them is the destination of the Henri Delaunay trophy for the next four years and tonight in Warsaw, Jogi Loew’s Mannschaft and Cesare Prandelli’s Azzurri do battle for the right to meet reigning World and European champions Spain in Sunday evening’s final.

We’ll be here until the bitter end which, if the last two games are anything to go by, will be at about 10.30 tonight following a bore-all draw and a brief flurry of excitement for penalties.

Game number 30 is nearly upon us. Once more unto the breach…

With just over 10 minutes until kick-off, let’s have that team news. Jogi Loew makes two changes for Germany with Gomez and Podoloski returning in place of Klose and Reus, but perhaps most surprising is the change he hasn’t made — Thomas Mueller is left sitting on the bench as Toni Kroos starts in midfield.

Germany: Neuer, Boateng, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Kroos, Ozil, Podolski, Gomez. Subs: Wiese, Gundogan, Schmelzer, Howedes, Schurrle, Klose, Mueller, Bender, Mertesacker, Gotze, Reus, Zieler.

And for Italy, Georgio Chiellini comes back into defence in place of Ignazio Abate. Daniele de Rossi is passed fit to start and Mario Balotelli retains his place up front.

Italy: Buffon, Balzaretti, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini, Pirlo, Marchisio, Montolivo, De Rossi, Balotelli, Cassano. Subs: Sirigu, Ogbonna, Thiago Motta, Abate, Di Natale, Giaccherini, Borini, Giovinco, Diamanti, Nocerino, De Sanctis.

The teams are just coming out onto the Warsaw pitch. Could there be a better time to read the latest dispatch from our man in Warsaw, Miguel Delaney. Here’s his pre-match preview:

Tonight, something’s going to have to give.

For one, there’s the fact that Germany have never beaten Italy in a tournament match — something which Jogi Loew correctly cited as completely irrelevant to his current team.

Two, there’s the fact Italy haven’t appeared in a European final since 2000.

Most of all, though, there’s the attacking styles of both teams. The two teams have been widely praised for the nature of their football over the past few weeks: Germany have been one of the most exhilarating teams in the tournament; Italy have successfully adopted the Spanish possession style.

Republic of Ireland defender Sean St Ledger may be sitting on his couch at home, but he’s still clearly in the mood:

“Lieber Fussballfans,” begins Philipp Lahm as he follows Buffon’s lead in reading UEFA’s pre-prepared Respect statement. We’ll have football soon, I promise.

An early testing of the waters reveals quite a bit of love for the Azzurri in the comments section here — which I’m sure has nothing to do with the fact that people want to see two teams from Ireland’s group contest the final. What a marvellous, meaningless excuse that would be, eh?

Over on Facebook, Sie sind alle Berliner.

Kick Off: A couple of minutes late but who’s counting (apart from me)? We’re up and running.

I’m reliably informed that our referee tonight, a Mr Stéphane Lannoy of France, is a video games distributor when he’s not keeping law and order on the football pitch. Wonder if he’s a Playstation or an XBox man?

An open start and the first snifter of a chance goes Italy’s way but Neuer is quick off his line and gobbles up the through ball meant for Balotelli.

By the by, if my man-love for either Mats Hummels or Andrea Pirlo gets out of hand at any stage this evening, I apologise in advance. It can’t be helped, really.

Speaking of Hummels! I’ve very nearly done the opposite of a commentator’s curse there as the German centre-half comes within the width of Andrea Pirlo’s thigh from opening the scoring. He manages to get an outstretched toe on a corner and scuffs it through Buffon’s leg but unfortunately for Germany, Pirlo is perfectly positioned on the post. A hint of handball from the Italian maybe, but play continues.

We’re approaching the 10 minute mark so here’s your early tactical analysis, courtesy of Joey Barton. He’s better than Lawro or Ray Houghton, I’ll give him that much.

Some Keystone Cops-esque defending from the Italians there and they are very lucky not to be a goal down. Khedira and Boateng link beautifully to create the opening. Buffon can only parry the latter’s low cross and then watches in horror as it bounces off the knee of the retreating Barzagli and rolls a couple of inches past the post for a corner. Very, very close. Germany are in control at the moment.

Montolivo takes pity on Manuel Neuer, who presumably has been a bit bored these last few minutes, and gives him a little tester to make sure he’s still awake. Nice play from the Italian midfielder who shifted the ball away from Schweinsteiger to make the angle before trying his luck from 20 yards. It’s a comfortable enough save in the end.

GOAL! Germany 0-1 Italy (Balotelli, 20′) Woah woah woah, this was not in the script I was given. Although Mario Balotelli doesn’t read scripts so it’s no surprise that he’s the man who has given Italy the lead on 20 minutes.

Awful defending by Hummels — you’ve no idea how painful that is to write — who comes out to close Cassano on the left wing but just throws a limp leg at the ball and lets the Italian inside. Badstuber is caught underneath Cassano’s cross but Balotelli isn’t and makes no mistake, heading past Neuer from seven yards.

How very, very interesting.

As Jack Nicholson once said in The Shining… HERE’S MARIO! Get it before UEFA do…

Great hold up play by Mario Gomez who feeds it back to Ozil. He goes for placement rather than power and Buffon is able to get down to his right to make the save.

The moment that separates the teams.

(Matthias Schrader/AP/Press Association Images)

Cracking defending by Balzaretti to cut out what would’ve been a golden opportunity for Lukas Podolski. Boateng skins Chiellini down the right wing and fires a cross to the back post but the Italian is there first to turn it behind.

Chances at either end as the game opens up. Montolivo finds himself in the box and has a chance to double Italy’s lead, but he takes an eternity and Badstuber is able to get in to dispossess him.

Down the other end, Buffon pulls off a showreel stop to deny Sami Khedira, getting across to palm his swerving effort behind for a corner.

GOAL! Germany 0-2 Italy (Balotelli, 36′) HOLY MOTHER OF MARIO! He owns tonight and don’t you forget it.

From a German corner, Montolivo pings a lovely ball downfield to Balotelli. The German back four has all pushed up — all except for Philipp Lahm that is, who is playing Balo on by a yard — and the striker is clean through on goal with only Neuer to beat. His finish is superb, thumping a half-volley with a side of swerve from the edge of the box into the top corner. Zero chance that Neuer is saving that. Zilch. Zip.

Where now, Germany? Where now?

Three minutes since Balotelli’s goal and I’ve already got a text to remind me that “Ireland were the fourth best team in the tournament. Fact.” A compelling argument.

We’re into stoppage time. Presumably Balotelli will decide when the referee blows it up — this has been his half after all.

HALF TIME: Germany 0-2 Italy

Mario’s had enough and so M. Lannoy ushers the teams down the tunnel for their half-time oranges. What a game.

Back to the RTÉ studio.

Billo: “Balotelli the hero of the hour. I’m shocked.”

Dunphy: “Germany are ordinary, Bill.”

That’s my cue to hit the mute button.

A gem of a comment from Limofax:

Angela Merkel thinks they’re playing football.

On noting that Balotelli had been booked for removing his jersey to celebrate his second goal, the resident Spaniard in TheScore’s office asked about the likelihood of him doing something stupid in the second half and getting a second yellow which would rule him out of the final.

My answer? Very likely.

Here’s an absolute trivia gem for you. Riccardo Montolivo’s right boot — the one he used to set up Balotelli’s second — bears a German flag. Here’s the pic, courtesy of @LiaCapizzi:

Mammy Montolivo is German, if you’re wondering why.

SECOND HALF: Here we go again. Can Germany turn this one around?

To kick-start their challenge, Jogi Loew has hit us with a double-whammy of substitutions. It’s bye bye Podolski and Gomez, hello Reus and Klose. Too much too soon by Jogi?

Reus tries to make his presence known immediately and cuts back inside Bonnuci but Buffon is able to get behind his rather tame shot.

Oooh, that’s a chance for Philipp Lahm and he’s duffed it in a big way. The skipper plays an incisive little one-two with Reus on the edge of the Italian box but when the return finds him with space to shoot, he blazes harmlessly over the bar. On the bench, Loew cuts a very frustrated figure.

Whoever had “Rory Delap” in tonight’s commentary sweepstake, come on down and collect your prize. The big man has just been mentioned by the lads over on the Beeb, it seems. It’s times like these I’m glad I’m listening to George and Ray.*

* I genuinely cannot believe I just typed that sentence. And meant it.

Klose and Reus have already done more in 10 minutes for the German attack than Gomez and Podolski did in the entire first half. Bonucci’s tackle on Klose has to be timed perfectly as the striker prepares to pull the trigger — and it is. Wonderful defending.

We’re nearing the hour mark and Prandelli decides that now is the time to make his first change. It’s a slightly defensive one as Cassano — who had a really good game — comes off to be replaced by that West Ham reject (© Guy Mowbray) / England slayer Alessandro Diamanti.

OOF! Germany have a free-kick in a central position about 26, 27 yards out and a mini-committee of four stand over it to dole out the responsibility. Reus strikes it and what a strike it is as he gets it up, over the wall and back down again, forcing a combination of Buffon and the crossbar to divert it over. Great strike, great save.

Prandelli makes his second change — Thiago Motta comes on to replace Montolivo.

Diamanti sees his name in lights — and Neuer slightly off his line — and so does his best Xabi Alonso impression and shoots from the half-way line. It’s a poor impression because he doesn’t score. Xabi would have.

That could’ve been the game for Italy. On the break, Diamanti plays in Marchisio who has a clear sight on Neuer’s goal. He’s slightly off balance as he hits it though and misses to the right.

Twenty minutes to play and Italy make their third and final substitution: Di Natale comes on to replace the man of the moment, Mario Balotelli.

This is how you celebrate — his second goal, not his substitution obviously.

(Vadim Ghirda/AP/Press Association Images)

And here’s Germany’s final change as Jogi Loew takes a deep breath and has one last roll of the dice. It’s Thomas Mueller on for Jerome Boateng.

Germany have won their last 15 competitive games and scored in their last 20. Are both of those runs about to come to an end?

Germany push forward in search of their lifeline but it’s all rather uninspiring and the Italian back four comfortably head Lahm’s crosses away. There’s a glimmer of opportunity when Klose does brilliantly to keep an overhit cross in play, acrobatically returning it to the box, but Buffon comes to claim above Reus’s head.

If Germany do somehow manage to pull this one off, Claudio Marchisio might want to look into a holiday in some far-flung Caribbean island; he’s going to be persona non grata back home for a while, I reckon. The Juve midfielder has another glorious chance to put this one to bed but drags his shot across Neuer’s goal and wide. Di Natale was roaring for it in the middle but he may have been offside.

As Germany flood forward, Italy are having plenty of joy on the break. Diamanti is in a great position inside the box but as he shapes to shoot, his foot gives way and he loses balance.

Di Natale might be joining his team-mates down in the travel agents tomorrow. The German defenders think he’s a mile offside but the flag stays down. Instead of keeping his composure, he slows and then wallops a shot which has as much conviction as government backbencher into the side-netting.

Some more gems from the RTÉ commentary box.

Hamilton: “Loew has played all his cards and all he’s got is a busted flush.”

Houghton: “There was no need for him to be offside there.”

You have to love it when defenders celebrate their tackles — that’s what Federico Balzaretti has just done after a stunningly timed block on Reus. From the resulting corner, Kroos whistles one the wrong side of the bar.

It says a lot that two of Germany’s best chances have fallen to Mats Hummels. His shot from six yards out is blocked by Bonucci but to be fair, I think this game was over a long time ago.

We’re into the first of four minutes stoppage time.

PENALTY TO GERMANY! They couldn’t, could they? Could they?

GOAL! Germany 1-2 Italy (Ozil, 90+2′) Pen given for a handball by Balzaretti. Ozil races up, spots it, and sticks it past Buffon to the right. Germany have 120 seconds to save this thing.

Neuer is playing on the halfway line, hoofing the ball into the Italian area, but Germany are offside.

FULL TIME: Germany 1-2 Italy As we tick into the fifth minute of stoppage time, Germany have a free near the half way line. Neuer sprints forward but Germany play it short and before they have a chance to hoof it into the box, the referee has blown for full time.

It’s all over — Germany 1-2 Mario Balotelli. The Germans are out; the Italians are in the final.

What madness is this? Mario Balotelli scores twice and Germany — one of the pre-tournament fancies, winners of their last 15 games — are out. How are you feeling now, Mr del Bosque?

That’s where we’ll leave it for tonight, a night which proved — if nothing else — that Ireland were the fourth best team at Euro 2012.

I’m kidding obviously but on Sunday evening in Kiev, it’ll be two of Group C’s other teams who do battle for the Henri Delaunay trophy. Can Spain cement their place in history as international football’s greatest ever side with a third successive tournament win? Or will Italy spoil their party, much as they have done in Warsaw tonight?

One thing’s for sure: if you’re having a party, Super Mario is going to be there. Invited or not.

Thanks for reading and for your comments. Now switch over to the tennis! Lukas Rosol is leading Rafael Nadal by a break in the final set.

About the author:

Niall Kelly

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