Euro 2012 - Semi-Finals ...
By Footy Mad - Editor
Updated Friday, 29th June 2012
Spain limped into the Euro 2012 final with a victorious penalty shoot-out; and the Germans missed their opportunity to join them with a poor show against Italy.
Spain 0 Portugal 0 (Spain win on pens)
Cesc Fabregas converted the decisive spot-kick as Spain reached the final of Euro 2012 after a nail-biting penalty shoot-out victory over Portugal in Donetsk.
Fabregas fired his shot in off the post to send Spain through after Bruno Alves had hit the bar for Portugal.
Earlier, Cristiano Ronaldo had missed a good chance to put Portugal through in the last minute of normal time while Portugal keeper Rui Patricio made superb saves to deny Jesus Navas and Andres Iniesta in extra-time.
The Spaniards had started better, and ought to have gone ahead from their first chance in the ninth minute when Manuel Negredo pulled the ball back for Alvaro Arbeloa to fire over the bar from the edge of the box.
Andres Iniesta blazed over from long range a minute later, but Portugal threatened in the 13th minute through Ronaldo, who beat Gerard Pique down the left before crossing towards Nani, with Iker Casillas jumping to make a crucial interception.
Paulo Bento's men had clearly wrested the upper hand, suffocating the Spanish midfield and worrying their opponents through the persistent threat of Ronaldo and Nani up front.
But Spain still almost contrived the grab the lead against the run of play in the 29th minute, when Xavi's clever ball found Iniesta on the edge of the box, who rolled the ball onto his right foot before floating a shot inches over Rui Patricio's goal.
Within two minutes, Portugal had responded with an even better chance, Joao Moutinho's persistence paying off on the edge of the box as he set free Ronaldo to drill a low shot just wide of Casillas left hand post.
Portugal's control continued into the second half, with Nani almost picking out the head of Hugo Almeida from a dangerous right wing cross, and it proved enough for Vicente Del Bosque, who replaced Negredo with Fabregas up front.
Almeida wasted a good chance in the 58th minute when he fired ambitiously over the Spanish bar instead of picking out Ronaldo or Nani, who were unmarked to his left and right respectively.
Belatedly, Spain started to show signs of stirring, Xabi drilling a shot straight at Patricio from long range, but despite beginning to edge possession, chances continued to be few and far between.
Ronaldo, still terrorising the Spanish defenders at every opportunity, fired a free-kick just over from 30 yards, but a game that had started brightly drifted into a dull spell in which neither side could serve up much of a threat.
Then came a glorious chance for Ronaldo in the last minute of normal time, when a Portuguese counter-attack saw Raul Meireles feed the Real Madrid man who fired over the bar from the left side of the box.
The introduction of Pedro lent some urgency to the Spanish attack in extra-time, and his run set up a chance for Iniesta in the seventh minute of the extra half hour, but his low shot was blocked in the box.
The Portuguese were plainly tiring, and Spain had an even better chance in the 104th minute, when Jordi Alba's cross found Iniesta in front of goal but Patricio managed to flap his shot wide from six yards.
Sergio Ramos slammed a long-range free-kick just over the bar before the end of the first period of extra-time, and Ramos was soon in critical action at the other end when cutting out a Fabio Coentrao ball meant for Ronaldo.
Substitute Jesus Navas was next to get the chance to break the deadlock in the 22nd minute of extra-time, picking up a ball from Arbeloa in the box and hitting a shot which Patricio did well to save down low.
As Spain kept pressing, Pedro briefly burst clear before being caught by Fabio Coentrao, but by then there was a certain inevitability about a match that promised much but offered little heading to penalties.
Alonso had the first spot-kick saved by Patricio but Casillas evened things up by saving the first Portuguese penalty from Moutinho.
Iniesta, Pepe, Pique, Nani and Sergio Ramos all put away their penalties before Alves - who had inadvertently stepped up for the previous penalty which was eventually converted by Nani - hit the bar, leaving Fabregas to put Spain through.
Italy 2 Germany 1
Mario Balotelli wrote another remarkable chapter in his amazing career as he fired Italy into the Euro 2012 final with a two-goal salvo against Germany in Warsaw.
The Manchester City man rose to power home Antonio Cassano's 20th-minute cross to put the underdogs in front.
Then he smashed an unstoppable shot past Manuel Neuer to double Italy's lead and take him joint-top of the Golden Boot standings.
Mesut Ozil's last-minute penalty was not enough to prevent Germany's suffering their first defeat in a competitive game since their World Cup semi-final loss to Spain two years ago.
Indeed, it was their third semi-final loss in their past four tournaments, one of which, in the 2006 World Cup, came against these opponents, who have still never lost to Germany in a competitive game, and now face Spain in Kiev on Sunday.
Germany had started the match as favourites, mainly thanks to their world-record run of 15 successive victories.
Having seen how hard England had found it to subdue Andrea Pirlo, it was anticipated they would deal with him much better. Instead, it was worse.
Sitting deep on the halfway line, Germany allowed Pirlo the time to pick out returning full-back Giorgio Chiellini with a brilliant pass to the touchline.
From there, it went downhill rapidly for Joachim Low's side.
Chiellini nudged the ball onto Cassano, who swivelled past Mats Hummels with the minimum of fuss.
Balotelli immediately got himself some space behind Holger Badstuber and when the cross came, he rose to power the ball home from six yards.
If that was efficient in its execution, Balotelli's second was brutal.
Advancing from deep inside his own half, Riccardo Montolivo could scarcely believe the room he was given.
Twice he looked up to see if anything was on.
On the second occasion he spotted Balotelli making his run, exploiting Philipp Lahm's failure to maintain the offside line.
It took Balotelli a bit of time to get himself into a shooting position.
However, as the ball sat up nicely, he smashed it past Manuel Neuer.
The Germany keeper had set himself to make a save. In the end, there was nothing he could do but stick out a limp hand and fall to the ground, powerless to do anything to prevent his goal being breached a second time.
Balotelli was booked for removing his shirt as he attempted to celebrate with a moody pose.
He could not keep it up though and broke into a broad smile as he was engulfed by ecstatic team-mates.
It was a performance that put English efforts - and Ireland's for that matter - into some kind of perspective.
Germany though were a shadow of their normal selves.
Twice in the opening stages Gianluigi Buffon had fumbled close to his own line but they could not take advantage.
Sami Khedira did launch a volley towards goal in between Balotelli's brace, but on that occasion Buffon was able to make the save.
Low took decisive action at the interval, introducing Miroslav Klose and Marco Reus for Mario Gomez and Lukas Podolski, whose fitful contribution cannot have impressed watching Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
The change brought some much-needed life into German ranks.
However, their efforts at hauling themselves back into the contest were repeatedly thwarted.
Lahm failed to hit the target after running onto Toni Kroos' return pass before Buffon pushed Reus' free-kick against his own bar and away to safety.
A disappointing Ozil surged to the by-line but, with hardly any room, Khedira needed to react far quicker than he did to the near-post cut-back.
Balotelli's exit with cramp meant he was denied the opportunity to become the first player to score a semi-final hat-trick since Gerd Muller did it in 1976.
His replacement, Antonio Di Natale, should have wrapped up victory when he found himself in acres of space inside the box, but dragged his effort wide of the far post, much to Balotelli's frustration.
Federico Balzaretti's handball in the final minute did provide a few nerves for Italy as Ozil fired home from the spot.
But Prandelli's men were able to reach the final whistle and celebrate their triumph.