Super Mario salvages Euro’s sorry strikers

KIEV (Ukraine), June 29: He put Italy in the European Championship final. He shamed the morons who have been making monkey noises at him because he is black. And he salvaged the honor of Europe’s strikers, by making sure these Euros didn’t set a new record for goal-scoring sterility.
In short, self-proclaimed genius Mario Balotelli had an outstanding night to finally match his nickname, Super Mario.
Euro 2012 had had 260 minutes of football without a goal — with 0-0 draws in two consecutive matches that went into extra time — before the Italian striker thumped his header past German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, the first of two goals he scored in Thursday’s semifinal to put the Azzurri into their first European Championship final since 2000.
The longest stretch without a goal at the Euros was in 1996, according to tournament organizers UEFA. Vladimir Smicer scored for the Czech Republic in the 88th minute against Russia. The tournament then waited 262 minutes — through 0-0 quarterfinal draws between France and Netherlands and England vs. Spain — until Juergen Klinsmann ended the drought with a penalty for Germany against Croatia in the 20th minute of their quarterfinal at Old Trafford.
When Balotelli scored last night in the 20th minute, wriggling free of marker Holger Badstuber to head home Antonio Cassano’s cross, these Euros were within a hair’s breadth of setting a new goal-drought record. (Agencies)


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