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Beaten by Balotelli

Italian curse haunts defeated Germans

Germany have again fallen short of glory at a major tournament after yet another knockout stage defeat to Italy. The Azzurri followed up their semi-final triumph at the 2006 World Cup by sending the three-time European champions tumbling out of Euro 2012 on Thursday night, a first half Mario Balotelli brace sealing the 2-1 win in Warsaw which sees Italy through to a final showdown with Spain on Sunday.

“It's very, very bitter," said Germany captain Philipp Lahm after the final whistle, “we made catastrophic errors for their goals. If you make mistakes like that against Italy and fall behind, it's always going to be difficult. We have so much potential in the team, but if you can't realise it, you won't win."

Start for Kroos

In Germany's fifth match at the tournament in Poland and Ukraine, coach Joachim Löw picked seven Bayern men in his starting line-up. Lahm was joined by Bastian Schweinsteiger, Manuel Neuer, Holger Badstuber, Jerome Boateng and the recalled Mario Gomez, who was rested for the quarter-final against Greece. Thomas Müller remained on the bench, but Toni Kroos celebrated a first start at the tournament.

Germany made the early running, but schemer Andrea Pirlo hacked a Mats Hummels effort off the line, before Andrea Barzagli narrowly avoided turning a Boateng cross over his own line. Veteran Italy keeper Gianluigi Buffon saved well from Kroos, but respected boss Cesare Prandelli's side began creating chances on the quarter hour, and Manchester City man Balotelli nodded home an Antonio Cassano cross to open the scoring after 20 minutes.