Euro Moments: Super Mario strikes a pose
Balotelli’s brace sees off Germany but people tend to remember celebration even more
Mario Balotelli’s infamous celebration during Italy’s Euro 2012 semi-final win over Germany. Photograph: Getty
Euro 2012: Germany 1 Italy 2
June 28th, 2012
This was the tournament where Mario Balotelli proved that he was more than just a controversial figure off the pitch. Well at least that’s what we thought; little did we know, of course, what was to come.
Cesare Prandelli’s team had come into the tournament in the typical Italian style in which no one quite knew what to expect. It’s somewhat fitting then that the standout player to lead the line was someone who specialises in the unexpected.
After scoring a beautifully cushioned volley with his back to goal against Ireland during the group stages, Balotelli failed to add to that tally against England in the quarter-finals.
However, after a 0-0 draw he would score the crucial first penalty of the shootout which Italy won to reach the semi-finals.
That semi-final was against Germany and it would be there in the National Stadium, Warsaw, where the 21-year-old would make himself a hero.
This was when the former Manchester City and Liverpool striker would prove that he possessed the clinical finishing and ruthlessness necessary to see off one of the best teams in the world.
And it was all done inside 16 minutes. First he would rise on the edge of the six yard box to nod home Antonio Cassano’s cross on the 20 minute mark to put his side into the lead.
But it was the Italian’s second goal 16 minutes later that would make everyone sit up and take notice. Riccardo Montolivo’s long diagonal ball dissected the German defence and found Balotelli, who had beaten the offside trap. Picking it up with his back to goal and 30 yards out he was still left with quite a bit to do.
He chested it down on the swivel before moving it from his left foot to his right with one deft touch. Then, on the edge of the box, he would swing a ferocious right foot which sent the ball rocketing into the top corner, past the rooted Manuel Neuer.
But, in typical Balotelli fashion, it’s not so much the goal that is remembered. Still adopting a stony-faced, brooding expression that would suggest someone had just spilled his pint rather than the fact that he had just sent his side to the final of the European Championships, he ran to the right hand side of the box, pulled off his jersey and flexed his muscular torso in a way that a competitive bodybuilder might.
It is that image that has proved to be the lasting legacy of Balotelli’s semi-final performance as it still flits around social media, regularly photoshopped into the most bizarre of circumstances.
It’s a pity, really, that the celebration is the standout moment as the goal was a piece of pure magic from a footballer who undoubtedly has endless amounts of talent.
But really it sums up the enigma that is Mario Balotelli - a brief moment of genius followed, and generally overshadowed, by a moment of the bizarre.
Why always me? Because you make it so, Mario.