🇪🇺 Euros memories: Super Mario takes down Germany

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Padraig Whelan

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Now 30 and plying his trade in the Italian second division, it’s fair to say Mario Balotelli is unlikely fo fulfil his potential.

As a super talented teenager at Inter, he was part of the squad which conquered Italy and Europe under José Mourinho. The world, it seemed, was his oyster.

But attitude issues quickly came to the fore, so much so that his own team-mates became exasperated with him.

“He’s like a child. I’ve got three kids at home so I can’t afford to take him by the collar too!” Dejan Stanković fumed after a show of petulance against Barcelona in 2010.

Since that game, he’s played for seven clubs across three countries but sadly never blossomed into the player it looked like he was capable of becoming.

But on one still, summer night in Warsaw in 2012, he had the world (and his jersey) at his feet as he showed what a world-beating talent he was on his day.

Sadly those days didn’t come often enough, but in the European Championship semi-final against Germany, he put in the landmark performance of his career.

The Azzurri have always had a complicated footballing relationship with Germany.

It is a rivalry that began in the much-heralded ‘greatest game of all time’ in the 1970 World Cup semi-final, which Italy won 4-3 after extra-time.

After that, they met five times in major tournaments prior to 2012 and Germany’s resentment towards their southern neighbours only increased with each passing failure.

The most painful were the 3-1 loss in the 1982 World Cup final and a stinging late extra-time loss in another semi-final of that tournament on home turf in 2006 as Italy again went on to win it.

But by the time 2012 came around, they were moving in different directions.

Italy were coming off the back of a humiliating first round World Cup exit two years earlier, while Germany were just two years away from getting their hands on the trophy again in Brazil.

A win for Joachim Löw’s men in the Euro 2012 semi-final was widely expected to finally end their hoodoo.

And then up stepped Super Mario.

A thumping header and a phenomenal finish beyond Manuel Neuer after finding himself in on goal put Germany to the sword and one of the all-time classic celebrations was born.

Balotelli stood over his jersey, hulking his muscles and flexing his arrival on the world stage for all to see.

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“I waited a long time for this moment,” the striker said afterwards. “This is the greatest night of my life.”

Unfortunately for him, it would always remain that way and there was never a game like it for Balotelli again.

But for all of the antics and drama that surrounds him, he did prove on the biggest stage what he was capable of.