Well, holy shit. Again.
While the group stages were full of upsets and excitement, it's fair to say that the knockout stages pretty much went back on-message, with all the most-fancied teams winning at more or less of a walk, at least in the quarters. Portugal cashiered the Czechs, Germany kicked the Greeks out of the Euros, Spain bade adieu to the French and Italy did a job on the English.
(Yes, I think I've gotten all the puns out of my system now, thanks.)
Moving on to the semis, an average Spain beat an equally average Portugal, but on penalties, which left a rampaging German team to face an Italy that's maybe not been as feared as Germany or Spain, but which has been showing itself to be a well-organized force. The chorus of pundits writing Italy off before tonight's game apparently reached such a fever pitch that Italy coach Cesare Prandelli is said to have replied, "Well then, why don't we just go home now?"
I'll admit I was not particularly hopeful myself - but I'll take this result. And once again I'll say, this is why they play the games.
Regrettably, I missed the first half, but from the replays I've seen Balotelli's goals were amazing. And more hearteningly, even at 2-0 up Italy was still going for it, especially when Alessandro Diamanti came on. My only complaint is that even so, the Italians weren't quite able to kill it off, with the Germans pulling one back through a penalty after a handball from Federico Balzaretti.
But they weathered the storm, stopping a German team that looked like they'd take the trophy at a trot. I don't like to put too much stock in previous form (after all, the French had never been beaten by Spain until last Saturday), but I am intrigued by the idea that Germany regards Italy in much the same way that England regards Germany.
So anyway, on to the final, and that rematch between Italy and Spain that the Spanish press suggested after the opening game in Group C. Given how unconvincing Spain has been lately, and how convincing Italy's been, I think it's fair to say that anything can happen. Just as long as it isn't another 0-0 draw.