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Bayern Munich hit Hamburg for NINE to continue procession to 23rd Bundesliga title

Majestic Bayern hit Hamburg for NINE to continue Bundesliga title procession

PUBLISHED:

20:51 GMT, 30 March 2013

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UPDATED:

20:51 GMT, 30 March 2013

Brutal Bayern Munich produced a nine-goal annihilation of Hamburg to move to within one win of wrapping up the Bundesliga title.

Bayern smashed their opponents 9-2 at the Allianz Arena with Claudio Pizarro scoring four times and Arjen Robben twice.

Xherdan Shaqiri, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Franck Ribery were also on target for the rampant hosts, who led 5-0 at the break and refused to let up.

Four-some: Claudio Pizarro netted four times for the soon-to-be German champions

Four-some: Claudio Pizarro (centre) netted four times for the soon-to-be German champions

Sensational: Bayern dismantled their opponents with ease during tonight's nine goal drubbing

Sensational: Bayern dismantled their opponents with ease during tonight's nine goal drubbing

They did it all without leading scorer Mario Mandzukic, who was left on the bench ahead of Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final meeting with Juventus.

Hamburg's goals, from Jeffrey Bruma and Heiko Westermann, made it 8-1 and then 9-2 and did nothing to ease the misery.

The win moved Bayern 20 points clear of Borussia Dortmund with seven games to go and victory at Eintracht Frankfurt next Saturday will wrap up the title.

Dortmund kept Bayern waiting for another week at least by winning 2-1 at Stuttgart

Lukasz Piszczek gave Dortmund the lead in the 29th minute, but Alexandru Maxim's first Bundesliga goal brought the Swabians level before a red card to Georg Niedermeier tipped the scales back in Dortmund's favour.

Robert Lewandowski grabbed the winner eight minutes from time.

Bayer Leverkusen kept a strong hold on third with a 4-1 win at Fortuna Dusseldorf.

How many Arjen Robben scored two of the nine goals

How many Arjen Robben (right) scored two of the nine goals

Two goals apiece for Stefan Kiessling and Andre Schurrle ensured Leverkusen maintained a six-point cushion over Schalke.

The fifth goal in the game also came from a visiting player, Daniel Schwaab's own goal all Fortuna had to show for their efforts.

Schalke scored three times in the final 20 minutes to beat relegation-threatened Hoffenheim 3-0.

Marco Hoger broke the deadlock in the 71st minute before two substitutes, Raffael and Teemu Pukki, wrapped up the victory.

Mainz dropped three points behind Schalke as they had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Werder Bremen, despite going ahead after 12 seconds.

Adam Szalai gave Mainz a flying start, but Aaron Hunt earned Bremen a point.

Max Kruse scored twice as Freiburg moved ahead of Borussia Monchengladbach in the race for Europa League qualification with a 2-0 win.

Third-bottom Augsburg failed to improve their chances of avoiding the drop as they lost 2-0 at home to Hannover.

Konstantin Rausch scored both goals in the second half.

Arsene Wenger fears Bayern Munich in Champions League draw

Wenger fears Bayern bite and hails huge progress of German sides

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UPDATED:

22:30 GMT, 20 December 2012

Arsene Wenger’s relief at escaping yet another Champions League clash with Barcelona was short-lived as Arsenal were left with a daunting trip to Germany.

The Gunners will face last season’s runners-up — and Bundesliga leaders — Bayern Munich for a place in the quarter-finals.

Barring a third meeting in four years with Barcelona, a match against Jupp Heynckes’s side is arguably the worst-case scenario.

And speaking ahead of the draw in Nyon, Wenger, who has piled the pressure on contract rebel Theo Walcott to sign a new deal, admitted his preference was to avoid the Catalans and any German side.

Mixed emotions: Arsene Wenger was happy to avoid Barcelona but was hoping to miss out on any German teams too

Mixed emotions: Arsene Wenger was happy to avoid Barcelona but was hoping to miss out on any German teams too

Wenger said: ‘If I had a choice I would want to avoid Barcelona. Also, the German clubs have made a big, big leap forward. The Spanish clubs are traditionally there and in England we have a little deficit because usually at this level we have four but now we are only two.

‘You have the French, Paris Saint-Germain, coming in, traditionally Porto are always in there. But especially I believe the Germans have improved.’

And when discussing the draw, Germany international Lukas Podolski admitted the Gunners will find it difficult against Bayern.

‘It’s a big club but we have the chance to win against Bayern Munich,’ said Podolski, who used to play for the German giants.

‘They have a very good team with big players. They have [Mario] Gomez up front, they have [Franck] Ribery, [Bastian] Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm and Manuel Neuer. But both teams have the chance to win.’

The significant strides German football has taken in recent seasons has not gone unnoticed by Wenger and his backroom team.

Sportsmail highlighted in October how the Gunners, led by influential chief talent-spotter Steve Rowley, had expanded their German scouting network as a result of the country’s flourishing game.

Arsenal have already lured Serge Gnarby, 17, and Thomas Eisfeld, 19, from Stuttgart and Borussia Dortmund respectively, and Wenger hopes the club’s increased presence in Germany will lead to further acquisitions. Wenger is also interested in Bayern midfielder Luis Gustavo and Dortmund prospect Mario Gotze.

Of the forthcoming clash, Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said: ‘We enter this match as the slight favourites, but we can’t make the mistake of underestimating them.

Out of the hat: Arsenal have a tough draw in the Champions League

Out of the hat: Arsenal have a tough draw in the Champions League

‘Arsenal have struggled at times in the league over the last few months, which a look at the standings in the Premier League will tell you. But by no means will this be an easy game for us.’

Meanwhile, Wenger has urged Walcott, 23, to repay the faith Arsenal have shown in him by signing a new contract. Walcott has rejected a five-year deal worth 75,000 per week but, as Sportsmail revealed on Wednesday, both parties have held talks geared towards persuading him to sign fresh terms.

And in his most forthright interview on the long-running saga yet, Wenger indicated that Walcott owes the Gunners.

He said: ‘I believe what is important is to keep the young players together and that at some stage I have stood up for them.

Watch out: The likes of Franck Ribery will pose a real threat to Wenger's side

Watch out: The likes of Franck Ribery will pose a real threat to Wenger's side

‘I played them at 17, 18, 19 years of age and I know I took a gamble. It is easier to take a player of 25 and put him in the team. You know what you are getting. If you put them in at 17 or 18, you have to stand up for them. You know you risk losing games while they are learning their job.

‘Once you have produced them, you want to say, “OK, let’s stay together and win together”.

‘Somewhere along the line they need to give back to the club what the club has given to them.After, when a guy gets to 30, you can understand it is his last contract and if he feels he wants a change, I can understand that.’

Wenger added: ‘Robin van Persie was 29 when he left. Theo is 23. It is important we keep him. I don’t want to compare him to Robin, but it would be a big loss. I want him to stay and have been consistent on that.

Sign up: Wenger hopes Theo Walcott will put pen to paper on a new deal

Sign up: Wenger hopes Theo Walcott will put pen to paper on a new deal

‘I am happy to pay Theo the money he deserves. But I feel as well that I bought him at 17 and spent a lot of money on him.

‘I am a big supporter and I believe he is happy here. He has always looked to me like he is an Arsenal man.’

Arsenal have put a 5million price-tag on flop defender Andre Santos, despite telling the Brazilian he is free to leave.

Santos arrived in the summer of 2011 from Fenerbahce for 6m, but the left back has failed to live up to expectations. Galatasaray have made a 2.5million enquiry but the offer has been rejected by Arsenal, who want the Turkish side to double their offer.

Santos, 29, is out of favour and angered Wenger by making a beeline for Van Persie’s shirt at half-time during the Gunners’ defeat at Manchester United.

Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in for FIFPro World XI

Gerrard and Lampard face Spanish competition for midfield berths in World XI

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UPDATED:

17:32 GMT, 26 November 2012

Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are the only English midfielders in contention for a spot in the FIFPro World XI.

They will battle it out with 13 others for the three midfield spots, including Barcelona quartet Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Busquets.

In contention: Steven Gerrard (left) could be named in the FIFPro team

In contention: Steven Gerrard (left) could be named in the FIFPro team

The Premier League could also be represented by Manchester City's David Silva and Yaya Toure in the middle of the park.

Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and Ashley Cole were among the 20 defenders listed earlier this month with the final team to be chosen on January 7 at the Ballon D'Or gala in Zurich.

Full list of midfielders

Xabi Alonso (Spain / Real Madrid), Sergio Busquets (Spain / FC Barcelona), Cesc Fabregas (Spain / FC Barcelona), Steven Gerrard (England / Liverpool), Eden Hazard (Belgium / Chelsea), Andres Iniesta (Spain / FC Barcelona), Frank Lampard (England / Chelsea), Luka Modric (Croatia / Real Madrid), Mesut zil (Germany / Real Madrid), Andrea Pirlo (Italy / Juventus), Franck Ribery (France / Bayern Munich), David Silva (Spain / Manchester City), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany / Bayern Munich), Yaya Tour (Ivory Coast / Manchester City), Xavi Hernandez (Spain / FC Barcelona)

Lionel Messi rescues Barcelona in Champions League

Messi rescues Barcelona from embarrassing home defeat to Spartak

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UPDATED:

21:41 GMT, 19 September 2012

Barcelona avoided a shock at home to Spartak Moscow as Lionel Messi scored twice in the final 19 minutes to earn them a 3-2 victory.

Cristian Tello put Barca ahead in the 14th minute but an own goal from Dani Alves and a second-half strike from Borges Romulo saw Spartak turn the game on its head and leave the Nou Camp shellshocked.

Messi, as he so often is, was Barca's hero though as he scored in the 71st and 80th minutes to leave Tito Vilanova's men top of Group G, with the other match seeing Celtic and Benfica draw 0-0.

That was close! Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona beat Spartak Moscow

That was close! Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona beat Spartak Moscow

Manchester United are now second in Group F behind behind CFR Cluj, who beat Braga 2-0 away following a classy first-half brace from Brazilian striker Rafael Bastos.

In Group H, Bayern Munich and BATE Borisov both started their campaigns with victories. Bayern beat Valencia 2-1 with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos on the scoresheet for the Germans with the Spanish side pulling a goal back late on through Nelson Haedo Valdez.

Kroos control: Bayern Munich eased to victory over Valencia in Germany

Kroos control: Bayern Munich eased to victory over Valencia in Germany

Bayern also missed a last-minute penalty through Mario Mandzukic after Valencia defender Adil Rami had been sent off.

Belarusian champions BATE saw off Lille with a blistering first-half display. Alexander Volodko swept the visitors in front with just six minutes on the clock with a superb lofted finish over Mickael Landreau, and further goals from Vitaly Rodionov and Edgar Olekhnovich effectively ended the contest before half-time.

Famous win: BATE ran riot against Lille to win their opening game

Famous win: BATE ran riot against Lille to win their opening game

Aurelien Chedjou reduced the deficit just before the hour mark but the French side could not get any closer.

In Group E, Henrikh Mkhitaryan scored twice to give Shakhtar Donetsk a 2-0 win over FC Nordsjaelland.

Euro 2012 results Germany 1 Italy 2 Mario Balotelli hits two as Azzurri set up Spain final

Germany 1 Italy 2: Magic Mario makes his mark as Azzurri extend tournament hoodoo

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UPDATED:

23:24 GMT, 28 June 2012

There could only ever be one Super Mario in this semi-final and the fact it was Balotelli and not Gomez is probably the shock of the tournament.

But what a thoroughly pleasant surprise it was to see the often troubled Balotelli finally realising his considerable potential on the international stage. It was a moment to savour and enjoy, a moment for the sporting romantics and one that reignited this competition after back-to-back goalless matches that had to be settled by penalty shootouts.

Centre of attention: Mario Balotelli rips his shirt off and poses following his crucial second

Centre of attention: Mario Balotelli rips his shirt off and poses following his crucial second

Final countdown: Italy celebrate a famous win over Germany to set up a Sunday showdown with Spain

Final countdown: Italy celebrate a famous win over Germany to set up a Sunday showdown with Spain

Fury: Thomas Muller shows his frustration as Germany crash out

Fury: Thomas Muller shows his frustration as Germany crash out

Match facts

Germany: Neuer, Boateng (Muller 71), Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Kroos, Ozil, Podolski (Reus 46), Gomez (Klose 46). Subs not used: Wiese, Gundogan, Schmelzer, Howedes, Schurrle, Bender, Mertesacker, Gotze, Zieler.

Booked: Hummels.

Scorer: Ozil (pen) 90+2.

Italy: Buffon, Balzaretti, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini, Pirlo, Marchisio, Montolivo (Thiago Motta 63), De Rossi, Balotelli (Di Natale 69), Cassano (Diamanti 58). Subs not used: Sirigu, Ogbonna, Abate, Giaccherini, Borini, Giovinco, Nocerino, De Sanctis.

Booked: Balotelli, Bonucci, Motta.

Scorer: Balotelli 20, 36.

Referee: Stephane Lannoy (France).

Attendance: 58,500.

Balotelli frustrates the Italians at
times. It was only last summer that Fabio Capello spoke of him as some
kind of national disaster.

Even out here there have been more
fireworks. He has clashed with UEFA over racism, clashed with Cesare
Prandelli, clashed with the Irish fans.

He was once described by Jose Mourinho
as ‘unmanageable’ and there have been times this season when Roberto
Mancini must have wanted to see the back of him at City. But last night
we were given a glimpse of why Mancini and Prandelli continue to
indulge him and why he might just be worth the hassle.

‘He was excellent,’ said Prandelli.
‘Just like the entire team. A team has to have an idea how to play, and
Mario really subscribed to the ideas we had. He is unique, atypical as a
striker, but he is always there when called upon.’

‘Why always me’ asked Balotelli on
that infamous T-shirt. The Germans might well ask ‘Why always us’ when
it comes to playing Italy.

They have never beaten the Italians
in a competitive match and this time they failed to produce that same
ultra-attacking football that had proved so effective in their first
four matches.

1-0: Balotelli beats Holger Badstuber to Antonio Cassano's tempting centre

1-0: Balotelli beats Holger Badstuber to Antonio Cassano's tempting centre, beating Manuel Neuer

Hands up: Neuer was uncharacteristically slow, letting Balotelli's header past

Hands up: Neuer was uncharacteristically slow, letting Balotelli's header past

Hands up: Neuer was uncharacteristically slow, letting Balotelli's header past

They managed a consolation penalty,
converted by Mesut Ozil after Federico Balzaretti handled in added time,
but got no nearer to stopping Andrea Pirlo than England did. The
33-year-old was once again magnificent. In presenting him with the
man-of-the-match award, Peter Schmeichel described his display as ‘the
performance of the competition’.

Joachim Low asked Toni Kroos to put
some pressure on Pirlo and his efforts in doing that clearly dulled the
attacking threat that has been so central to Germany’s approach.

They were poor in defence, too.
Dreadful in fact. But the fact Low substituted both Gomez and Lukas
Podolski at half-time told its own story. ‘We lost our organisation,’
said Low. ‘We made mistakes and we lost our concentration.’

Not a prayer: Ballotelli latches on to Riccardo Montolivo's through ball to give Neuer no chance with the second

Not a prayer: Ballotelli latches on to Riccardo Montolivo's through ball to give Neuer no chance with the second

Not a prayer: Ballotelli latches on to Riccardo Montolivo's through ball to give Neuer no chance with the second

Not a prayer: Ballotelli latches on to Riccardo Montolivo's through ball to give Neuer no chance with the second

Booked: French referee Stephane Lannoy had no option

Booked: French referee Stephane Lannoy had no option

Germany did improve after the
half-time changes, and for a spell in the second half they dominated.
But Italy were a league above them last night. At the back they were
excellent, and in players like Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi they delivered
a passing masterclass — something that will certainly impress the
Spaniards.

Pirlo was a ubiquitous presence, even clearing a Mats Hummels effort off the line in the fifth minute.

But if the opening 20th minute goal
was the result of a fine piece of attacking football, the defending
would have incensed Low. It was not just the way Hummels and Jerome
Boateng allowed Antonio Cassano to slip away from them to deliver the
cross, it was the abject failure of Holger Badstuber to stop Balotelli scoring with a thumping header.

Consolation: Mesut Ozil beat Gianluigi Buffon from 12 yards to set up a nervy finish

Consolation: Mesut Ozil beat Gianluigi Buffon from 12 yards to set up a nervy finish

Consolation: Mesut Ozil beat Gianluigi Buffon from 12 yards to set up a nervy finish

This was a real test for the Germans;
the first time they had trailed in a competitive match for 1,313
minutes, or 22 hours, dating back to the third-place game at the 2010
World Cup.

Sami Khedira did force Gianluigi
Buffon to make one of a number of fine saves, but when Riccardo
Montolivo picked out Balotelli from deep inside his own half with a
terrific diagonal ball in the 36th minute another goal followed.
Balotelli took full advantage of the fact that Philipp Lahm had played
him on side by beating Manuel Neuer for a second time with a stunning
strike.

What happened Mats Hummels and Bastian Schweinsteiger (below) reflect on another German defeat at the hands of Italy

What happened Mats Hummels and Bastian Schweinsteiger (below) reflect on another German defeat at the hands of Italy

What happened Mats Hummels and Bastian Schweinsteiger (below) reflect on another German defeat at the hands of Italy

What happened Mats Hummels and Bastian Schweinsteiger (below) reflect on another German defeat at the hands of Italy

The decision to replace Podolski and
Gomez with Marco Reus and Miroslav Klose was a sound one by Low. It
improved the German team and but for Buffon, who just managed to push
the ball against his crossbar, Reus would have scored with a superb
free-kick.

Balotelli, however, was more clinical.
In explaining why he did not celebrate his penalty against England the
other night, he compared himself to a postman. He said he was simply
doing his job.

Solid defence: Germany were thwarted by the Italians

Solid defence: Germany were thwarted by the Italians

He celebrated last night, though,
stripping his shirt off and standing, muscles taut, in defiance. He was
booked, but what the hell. Here, at Euro 2012, he delivered, and at the
end he hugged his adopted mother Silvia in the crowd.

‘Us and Spain are the two best teams in the tournament,’ he said afterwards. ‘Can we win I’ll tell you on Sunday.’

Wonderful stuff.

The difference: Balotelli remonstrates with Cesare Prandelli after being substituted for cramp

The difference: Balotelli remonstrates with Cesare Prandelli after being substituted for cramp

Euro 2012 match result Germany 1 Italy 2: Mario Balotelli hits two as Azzurri set up Spain final

Germany 1 Italy 2: Magic Mario makes his mark as Azzurri extend tournament hoodoo

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UPDATED:

21:08 GMT, 28 June 2012

Mario Balotelli wrote another remarkable chapter in his amazing career as he fired Italy into the Euro 2012 final with a two-goal salvo against Germany in Warsaw.

The Manchester City man rose to power home Antonio Cassano's 20th-minute cross to put the underdogs in front.

Then he smashed an unstoppable shot past Manuel Neuer to double Italy's lead and take him joint-top of the Golden Boot standings.

Centre of attention: Mario Balotelli rips his shirt off and poses following his crucial second

Centre of attention: Mario Balotelli rips his shirt off and poses following his crucial second

Final countdown: Italy celebrate a famous win over Germany to set up a Sunday showdown with Spain

Final countdown: Italy celebrate a famous win over Germany to set up a Sunday showdown with Spain

Fury: Thomas Muller shows his frustration as Germany crash out

Fury: Thomas Muller shows his frustration as Germany crash out

Match facts

Germany: Neuer, Boateng (Muller 71), Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Kroos, Ozil, Podolski (Reus 46), Gomez (Klose 46). Subs not used: Wiese, Gundogan, Schmelzer, Howedes, Schurrle, Bender, Mertesacker, Gotze, Zieler.

Booked: Hummels.

Scorer: Ozil (pen) 90+2.

Italy: Buffon, Balzaretti, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini, Pirlo, Marchisio, Montolivo (Thiago Motta 63), De Rossi, Balotelli (Di Natale 69), Cassano (Diamanti 58). Subs not used: Sirigu, Ogbonna, Abate, Giaccherini, Borini, Giovinco, Nocerino, De Sanctis.

Booked: Balotelli, Bonucci.

Scorer: Balotelli 20, 36.

Referee: Stephane Lannoy (France).

Attendance: 58,500.

Mesut Ozil's last-minute penalty was
not enough to prevent Germany's suffering their first defeat in a
competitive game since their World Cup semi-final loss to Spain two
years ago.

Indeed, it was their third semi-final
loss in their past four tournaments, one of which, in the 2006 World
Cup, came against tonight's opponents, who have still never lost to
Germany in a competitive game, and now face Spain in Kiev on Sunday.

Germany had started the match as favourites, mainly thanks to their world record run of 15 successive victories.

Having seen how hard England had found it to subdue Andrea Pirlo, it was anticipated they would deal with him much better.

Instead, it was worse.

Sitting deep on the halfway line,
Germany allowed Pirlo the time to pick out returning full-back Giorgio
Chiellini with a brilliant pass to the touchline.

From there, it went downhill rapidly for Joachim Low's side.

1-0: Balotelli beats Holger Badstuber to Antonio Cassano's tempting centre

1-0: Balotelli beats Holger Badstuber to Antonio Cassano's tempting centre, beating Manuel Neuer

Hands up: Neuer was uncharacteristically slow, letting Balotelli's header past

Hands up: Neuer was uncharacteristically slow, letting Balotelli's header past

Hands up: Neuer was uncharacteristically slow, letting Balotelli's header past

Chiellini nudged the ball onto Cassano, who swivelled past Mats Hummels with the minimum of fuss.

Balotelli immediately got himself
some space behind Holger Badstuber and when the cross came, he rose to
power the ball home from six yards.

If that was efficient in its execution, Balotelli's second was brutal.

Advancing from deep inside his own half, Riccardo Montolivo could scarcely believe the room he was given.

Not a prayer: Ballotelli latches on to Riccardo Montolivo's through ball to give Neuer no chance with the second

Not a prayer: Ballotelli latches on to Riccardo Montolivo's through ball to give Neuer no chance with the second

Not a prayer: Ballotelli latches on to Riccardo Montolivo's through ball to give Neuer no chance with the second

Not a prayer: Ballotelli latches on to Riccardo Montolivo's through ball to give Neuer no chance with the second

Booked: French referee Stephane Lannoy had no option

Booked: French referee Stephane Lannoy had no option

Twice he looked up to see if anything was on.

On the second occasion he spotted Balotelli making his run, exploiting Philipp Lahm's failure to maintain the offside line.

It took Balotelli a bit of time to get himself into a shooting position.

However, as the ball sat up nicely, he smashed it past Manuel Neuer.

The Germany keeper had set himself to
make a save. In the end, there was nothing he could do but stick out a
limp hand and fall to the ground, powerless to do anything to prevent
his goal being breached a second time.

Consolation: Mesut Ozil beat Gianluigi Buffon from 12 yards to set up a nervy finish

Consolation: Mesut Ozil beat Gianluigi Buffon from 12 yards to set up a nervy finish

Consolation: Mesut Ozil beat Gianluigi Buffon from 12 yards to set up a nervy finish

Balotelli was booked for removing his shirt as he attempted to celebrate with a moody pose.

He could not keep it up though and broke into a broad smile as he was engulfed by ecstatic team-mates.

It was a performance that put English efforts – and Ireland's for that matter – into some kind of perspective.

Germany though were a shadow of their normal selves.

What happened Mats Hummels and Bastian Schweinsteiger (below) reflect on another German defeat at the hands of Italy

What happened Mats Hummels and Bastian Schweinsteiger (below) reflect on another German defeat at the hands of Italy

What happened Mats Hummels and Bastian Schweinsteiger (below) reflect on another German defeat at the hands of Italy

What happened Mats Hummels and Bastian Schweinsteiger (below) reflect on another German defeat at the hands of Italy

Twice in the opening stages Gianluigi Buffon had fumbled close to his own line but they could not take advantage.

Sami Khedira did launch a volley
towards goal in between Balotelli's brace, but on that occasion Buffon
was able to make the save.

Low took decisive action at the
interval, introducing Miroslav Klose and Marco Reus for Mario Gomez and
Lukas Podolski, whose fitful contribution cannot have impressed watching
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

The change brought some much-needed life into German ranks.

Solid defence: Germany were thwarted by the Italians

Solid defence: Germany were thwarted by the Italians

However, their efforts at hauling themselves back into the contest were repeatedly thwarted.

Lahm failed to hit the target after
running onto Toni Kroos' return pass before Buffon pushed Reus'
free-kick against his own bar and away to safety.

A disappointing Ozil surged to the
by-line but, with hardly any room, Khedira needed to react far quicker
than he did to the near-post cut-back.

Balotelli's exit with cramp meant he
was denied the opportunity to become the first player to score a
semi-final hat-trick since Gerd Muller did it in 1976.

The difference: Balotelli remonstrates with Cesare Prandelli after being substituted for cramp

The difference: Balotelli remonstrates with Cesare Prandelli after being substituted for cramp

His replacement, Antonio Di Natale,
should have wrapped up victory when he found himself in acres of space
inside the box, but dragged his effort wide of the far post, much to
Balotelli's frustration.

Federico Balzaretti's handball in the final minute did provide a few nerves for Italy as Ozil fired home from the spot.

But Prandelli's men were able to reach the final whistle and celebrate their triumph.

Euro 2012 results: Germany 4 Greece 2

Germany 4 Greece 2: Low's men take one step Klose to England showdown

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UPDATED:

21:07 GMT, 22 June 2012

Germany eased ominously into the semi-finals of Euro 2012 – where they will meet either England or Italy – as Greece's resistance finally crumbled.

Having set out to frustrate from the off, once they fell behind to Philipp Lahm's goal just before half-time the 2004 champions were always up against it.

On target: Klose scores in Germany's 4-2 win

On target: Klose scores in Germany's 4-2 win

MATCH FACTS

Germany: Neuer, Boateng, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Reus (Gotze 80), Ozil, Schurrle (Muller 67), Klose (Gomez 79).
Subs Not Used: Wiese, Gundogan, Schmelzer, Howedes, Podolski, Bender, Mertesacker, Kroos, Zieler.

Goals: Lahm 39, Khedira 61, Klose 68, Reus 74. Greece: Sifakis, Torosidis, Papastathopoulos, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Tzavelas (Fotakis 46), Makos (Liberopoulos 71), Maniatis, Ninis (Gekas 46), Katsouranis, Samaras, Salpingidis.
Subs Not Used: Chalkias, Malezas, Mitroglou, Fortounis, Fetfatzidis,Tzorvas.

Booked: Samaras,Papastathopoulos.

Goals: Samaras 55, Salpingidis 89 pen.

Att: 43,000

Ref: Damir Skomina (Slovenia).

Having equalised somewhat
unexpectedly through Celtic forward Giorgios Samaras they could not hold
on for very long, and goals from Sami Khedira, Miroslav Klose and Marco
Reus merely reflected the dominance of the three-time winners of this
tournament before Dimitris Salpingidis' late penalty.

On the four previous occasions
Germany have won a last-eight encounter they have reached the final, and
this performance increased the likelihood of them making it five.

For a long time in the first half it
appeared they might regret a number of missed chances, but once Lahm
broke the deadlock there was only going to be one winner.

Greece, who have now have never
beaten their opponents in nine competitive matches, scrambled, scampered
and blocked their way towards half-time only for the Germany captain to
fire home a swerving effort from outside the penalty area six minutes
before the break.

It allowed coach Joachim Low to
breathe a little easier after making four changes from the side which
beat Denmark, the most notable being handing Klose his 120th cap at the
expense of three-goal Mario Gomez.

Head boy: Klose converts from a corner to give Germany a 3-1 lead

Head boy: Klose converts from a corner to give Germany a 3-1 lead

After the Lazio striker had an early
effort ruled out for offside, when Michalis Sifakis had fumbled
Khedira's shot, Germany laid siege to Greece's goal.

Excellent movement and passing had
the Greeks manning a determined rearguard effort, but even when that was
breached Mesut Ozil shot weakly at Sifakis after being set up by the
impressive Reus, who had already sliced one shot wide.

The Low down: Germany await the winner of England's quarter final with showdown with Italy

The Low down: Germany await the winner of England's quarter final with showdown with Italy

All white on the night: Germany celebrate in front of their fans as they book their place in the semi final

All white on the night: Germany celebrate in front of their fans as they book their place in the semi final

Klose failed to get on the end of
Reus' cross-shot and Khedira had Sifakis scrambling with another shot
before Lahm made the 39th-minute breakthrough, the left-back cutting in
from an advanced position to smash in a swerving shot.

The advantage should have been much
greater, however, and Germany were made to pay 10 minutes after the
break when out of nowhere Greece equalised.

Net gains: Samaras stuns the Germans after the interval with his equaliser

Net gains: Samaras stuns the Germans after the interval with his equaliser

Blue is the colour: Greece came out fighting in the second half, celebrating Samaras' 55th-minute strike

Blue is the colour: Greece came out fighting in the second half, celebrating Samaras' 55th-minute strike

Substitute Theofanis Gekas released
Salpingidis on a quick break down the right, and when he slid over a
teasing cross Samaras poked home at the far post.

They were level for only six minutes,
though, as Khedira, Germany's supposed defensive linchpin in midfield,
timed his run from deep perfectly to volley home from Jerome Boateng's
assist.

Dancing queens: Marco Reus (left) and Jerome Boateng celebrate after winning their last-eight clash

Dancing queens: Marco Reus (left) and Jerome Boateng celebrate after winning their last-eight clash

Greek tragedy: Greece are heading home after their defeat to the Germans

Greek tragedy: Greece are heading home after their defeat to the Germans

Klose ensured the Greeks could not
produce another 2004 upset when he powered home a header from Ozil's
free-kick as Sifakis came but got nowhere near the cross, and Reus
lashed in a volley off the underside of the crossbar after Klose's shot
rebounded off the goalkeeper.

Salpingidis converted a late penalty, generously awarded for Boateng's handball, but it was little consolation.

Germany v Greece – Euro 2012 live

EURO 2012 LIVE: Germany v Greece – follow the quarter-final action as it happens

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UPDATED:

19:07 GMT, 22 June 2012

Follow Sportsmail's coverage of Euro 2012 as Germany take on surprise package Greece at the PGE Arena in Gdansk for their quarter-final. Joachim Low's team surprised no one by topping Group B and are heavily fancied to progress ahead of the Greeks who overcame huge odds to finish runners-up in Group A ahead of Russia and Poland. Email me your thoughts on the match at [email protected] or contact me on Twitter @Ripinho.

Germany 0-0 Greece (7.45pm)

Click here for the live goals as they go in

Germany: Neuer, Boateng, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Khedira, Reus, Ozil, Schurrle, Klose.
Subs: Wiese, Gundogan, Schmelzer, Howedes, Podolski, Muller, Bender, Mertesacker, Kroos, Gotze, Gomez, Zieler.

Greece: Sifakis, Torosidis, Papastathopoulos, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Tzavelas, Makos, Maniatis, Ninis, Katsouranis, Samaras, Salpingidis.
Subs: Chalkias, Malezas, Liberopoulos, Mitroglou, Fotakis, Gekas, Fortounis, Fetfatzidis, Tzorvas.

Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)

20min: Greece will be happy that they haven't allowed Germany too many shots on goal so far.

Low's side are not showing much urgency right now but then Greece do still possess a threat on the counter attack.

17min: From InfostradaLive:

Greece are now the team with the most yellow cards this tournament: 10 yellow cards. Italy and Croatia are second with nine yellow cards.

14min: A few rough hand tactics from Greece as Girogos Samaras is booked after an unnecessary lunge on Bastian Schweinsteiger.

11min: Greece are ripped to shreds with a one-touch move, but are fortunate when Marco Reus's shot from 20 yards bounces up before he hits it and causes him to slice wide.

8min: That's a little better from the Greeks as they at least start to have some possession in Germany's half. No chances since the correctly disallowed goal.

5min: And Germany already find the back of the net. Michalis Sifakis spills Sami Khedira's shot, but Andrea Schurrle is offside as he taps home the rebound. Very shaky start from the Greeks.

3min: Interesting game plan from the Germans. They are allowing the Greek centre-backs to have the ball but as soon as the ball is passed anywhere else they are instantly pressing.

Battle: Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger (left) and Greece's Giannis Maniatis vie for the ball

Battle: Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger (left) and Greece's Giannis Maniatis vie for the ball

Kick-off: Greece get us going.

19.43: Probably predictably, the German anthem is given a few jeers at the start.

In the stands, German chancellor Angela Merkel is sat next to UEFA president Michel Platini.

19.40: It will sure be interesting if they are still drawing at half-time. Meanwhile on the pitch both teams make their way out.

19.36: So how much hope are we giving Greece Can they get away with the same containing game that saw them squeeze through Group A

I think we can expect a similar pattern to the Czech Republic v Portugal game last night, where the Czechs were pretty much camped in their own half. It will be hard to see the Greeks making half-time goalless though but we will wait and see.

All smiles: German Chancellor Angela Merkel (green) speaks with UEFA president Michel Platini

All smiles: German Chancellor Angela Merkel (green) speaks with UEFA president Michel Platini

19.31: Germany have had slip ups in in the group stage of major tournaments in recent years, but there was to be no errors this time around.

They impressively won the group of death that contained Holland, Portugal and Denmark with maximum points – matching their 100 per cent record of 10 out of 10 wins in qualifying…can anyone stop them

19.26: From InfostradaLive:

Philipp Lahm will be making his 13th appearance in a ECh match tonight, equalling the team record by Jurgen Klinsmann and Thomas Hassler.

19.23: However I feel that statistic might be wrong. I swear I have seen Greece defeat Germany before…in Munich too.

19.20: So in more than one way, Greece are up against it tonight. They have never beaten Germany in eight previous games with their last meeting coming in 2001 when the Germans won 4-2 in a World Cup qualifier.

19.15: From OptaJoe:

21 – Before tonight, excluding third place play-offs, Lukas Podolski had started Germany's last 21 games at major tournaments. Omitted.

19.10: So as you can see from the pictures below this is more than a game to the Greeks. Their financial state and political friction with Germany was always going to provide a sub-plot to this match – let's just hope it doesn't boil over on the pitch.

19.05: Well Joachim Low's caught us napping there. That's four changes to the Germany side as Jerome Boateng returns from suspension to take his place in defence while Marco Reus, Andre Schurrle and Miroslav Klose replace Thomas Muller, Mario Gomez and Lukas Podolski.

Guys and dolls: A steward inside the PGE Arena in Gdansk attempts to confiscate a doll that depicts German chancellor Angela Merkel from the Greek supporters

Guys and dolls: A steward inside the PGE Arena in Gdansk attempts to confiscate a doll that depicts German chancellor Angela Merkel from the Greek supporters

Guys and dolls: A steward inside the PGE Arena in Gdansk attempts to confiscate a doll that depicts German chancellor Angela Merkel from the Greek supporters

19.00: The teams in full from Gdansk:

Greece: Sifakis, Maniatis, Tzavellas, Papadopoulos, Torossidis, Papastathopoulos, Makos, Ninis, Katsouranis, Samaras, Salpingidis.
Subs: Chalkias, Tzorvas, Malezas, Fotakis, Fortounis, Fetfatzidis, Liberopoulos, Mitroglou, Gekas.

Germany: Neuer, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm, Boateng, Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Ozil, Schurrle, Reus, Klose.
Subs: Wiese, Zieler, Schmelzer, Howedes, Mertesacker, Gundogan, Muller, Bender, Kroos, Gotze, Podolski, Gomez.

18.55: Germany starting XI:

Neuer, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm, Boateng, Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Ozil, Schurrle, Reus, Klose

18.50: Hands up, who has gone and stuck their life savings on Germany reaching the semi-finals tonight

I can't blame you if you have, this has got to be the biggest mis-match in a European Championship quarter-final since France took on Greece in Euro 2004………right, on second thoughts I'm glad I didn't place that bet now.

Back in the side: Miroslav Klose makes his first start in the tournament for Germany

Back in the side: Miroslav Klose makes his first start in the tournament for Germany

Euro 2012: Joachim Low never feared elimination

Cool Low never feared elimination: I had a plan, insists Germany coach

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UPDATED:

22:26 GMT, 17 June 2012

Keeping cool: Joachim Low's germany will now face Greece in the quarter-finals

Keeping cool: Joachim Low's germany will now face Greece in the quarter-finals

Joachim Low insisted he was never worried about Germany being knocked out of Euro 2012 by Denmark, even though at one stage his men were one goal away from elimination.

With Portugal leading against Holland going into the last 20 minutes, one goal for Denmark would have been enough to see them qualify together with the Portuguese and send Germany, who had won their first two group games, back home. But Lars Bender's goal handed Germany a 2-1 victory and ended any doubt.

'I had a plan,' said Low. 'Of course I
had considered what would have happened if Denmark had in some way
suddenly scored a goal but I never had that feeling.

'I was pretty relaxed because it doesn't get you anywhere when you panic.

'Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira were always in control and I just had the feeling we would score.'

Low's confidence was based on what he had seen in the first hour of the game in Lviv, during which Germany appeared in control.

'Denmark played with a stoic calmness and it seemed like they could not care less,' he said.

'I never had the feeling that Denmark
were playing to win it. They wanted to keep the result, were happy with
the draw and then maybe they would get a free-kick or corner that they
could take advantage of, but they did not attack much.

'They sat back a lot, even though
they had to win. They had one or two good chances, but no more than
that, and I think in the second half we did a decent job given the
pressure.

'Maybe had we played Holland or Portugal (in the final group game), they would have done more for a win than Denmark did.'

Nevertheless,
Low was not fully satisfied with his own side's performance and said
they can get better, despite coming through the group with a 100%
record.

They play Greece in the quarter-finals.

'We missed three or four chances and did not have the killer instinct,' he said. 'I think that in midfield and at the back, there were often plenty of gaps and we could have got control of Denmark better.

Under control: Low had every confidence in Bastian Schweinsteiger

Under control: Low had every confidence in Bastian Schweinsteiger

'Greece will be similar and will try to take the tempo out like Denmark. We can still improve.'

Denmark coach Morten Olsen expressed his pride at his side's performance and explained why Low had the impression that his side was so negative.

'If you try to put them under pressure, then you can get punished quickly,' he said. 'One-one was a good result for us because then you just need a lucky punch maybe with a set-piece, but if you gamble too much, they can hit you quickly.

'We are disappointed not to have gone through, but this team has a future.

'Compliments to all of our players – they played a great tournament and it is only minor details which make a difference.'

One of those minor details was a penalty appeal when Nicklas Bendtner had his shirt tugged by Holger Badstuber inside the Germany penalty area, impeding him from doing more with a one-on-one situation with Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

Holger the holder: Badstuber (right) tugs back Nicklas Bendtner but no penalty was given

Holger the holder: Badstuber (right) tugs back Nicklas Bendtner but no penalty was given

That incident happened just minutes before Bender netted Germany's winner and it was a moment which could have decided the encounter and indeed the group in Denmark's favour.

'I think we should have had a penalty,' said Olsen. 'It is not permitted to pull your opponent's shirt in the box and that is what this extra referee is there for, but clearly he did not see it.'

Olsen was not making that his principle excuse for defeat and elimination, however.

'Maybe we lost it by not holding Portugal to a draw, but there are so many ifs and buts,' he said.

'When all is said and done, we have done very well at this tournament.'

Euro 2012 results: Denmark 1 Germany 2

Denmark 1 Germany 2: Danes heading home as ton-up Podolski sets up Greece clash

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UPDATED:

20:52 GMT, 17 June 2012

Lars Bender spared Germany from a shock Euro 2012 exit with the winning goal in a 2-1 victory over Denmark, whose tournament ended tonight in Lviv.

The Bayer Leverkusen midfielder, playing as full-back for the national team, struck as Denmark were pushing for a goal which would have taken them through to the last eight at their opponents' expense, and just after Morten Olsen's side had seen a strong penalty appeal turned down.

Lukas Podolski put Germany in front in the 19th minute, but a goal from Michael Krohn-Dehli five minutes later lifted Denmark's spirits.

Party time: Germany celebrate Lukas Podolski's opening goal against Denmark

Party time: Germany celebrate Lukas Podolski's opening goal against Denmark

Ton up: Podolski slams the ball home to cap his 100th appearance for Germany with a goal

MATCH FACTS

Denmark: Andersen, Jacobsen, Kjaer, Agger, Simon Poulsen, Kvist Jorgensen, Eriksen, Jakob Poulsen (Mikkelsen 82), Zimling (Christian Poulsen 78), Krohn-Delhi, Bendtner.

Subs Not Used: Lindegaard, Rommedahl, Bjelland, Okore, Schone, Silberbauer, Pedersen, Wass, Kahlenberg, Schmeichel.
Goals: Krohn-Delhi 25.

Germany: Neuer, Bender, Hummels, Badstuber, Lahm, Khedira, Schweinsteiger, Muller (Kroos 84), Ozil, Podolski (Schurrle 64), Gomez (Klose 74).

Subs Not Used: Wiese, Gundogan, Schmelzer, Howedes, Mertesacker, Gotze, Reus, Zieler.

Goals: Podolski 19, Bender 80.

Att: 35,000

Ref: Carlos Velasco Carballo (Spain).

Germany controlled much of the game, but were nevertheless made to sweat as Denmark's belief and Portugal's 2-1 win over Holland ensured a tense finale which ended in their favour, clinching them top spot in Group A with a perfect record and a clash with Greece in Gdansk on Friday.

Germany coach Joachim Low made his first change of the tournament, replacing the suspended Jerome Boateng with Lars Bender, but he resisted the temptation to make further alterations to his winning side.

Niki Zimling was passed fit to play by Denmark coach Morten Olsen, while the injured Dennis Rommedahl's place was taken by Jakob Poulsen.

Low's side began with authority and the diligent Muller went close twice
early on, but Stephan Andersen showed lightning reactions to deny his
second attempt in the sixth minute.

Germany remained camped in the Denmark half, playing a patient yet
expressive game which led to Podolski marking his 100th Germany
appearance with a goal in the 19th minute.

Muller provided a low cross from the right-hand side of the penalty area
which Mario Gomez flicked intelligently back to Podolski, who left
nothing to chance with a powerful shot from seven yards out.

Level pegging: Denmark's Michael Krohn-Dehli (left) scores the equaliser against Germany

Level pegging: Denmark's Michael Krohn-Dehli (left) scores the equaliser against Germany

Level pegging: Denmark's Michael Krohn-Dehli (left) scores the equaliser against Germany

Germany's lead lasted only five minutes, though, before Krohn-Dehli's second goal of the tournament brought the Danes level.

He diverted Nicklas Bendtner's header past Manuel Neuer from six yards out from a well-worked corner after a positive reaction from the Danes to falling behind.

Towards the end of the first half, Podolski blazed a free-kick over the bar from the edge of the penalty area and Sami Khedira prodded a shot wide from 10 yards out as Denmark were again forced to defend.

He's in there somewhere: Denmark celebrate their equaliser against Germany

He's in there somewhere: Denmark celebrate their equaliser against Germany

Jakob Poulsen went within inches of putting Denmark in front five minutes into the second half when his shot grazed the outside of the left-hand post with Neuer beaten.

Low sent Schurrle on for Podolski midway through the second half and his first touch of the game brought an excellent one-handed save out of Andersen.

Neuer showed less sophistication in dealing with Zimling's distance effort in the 71st minute, conceding a corner as Denmark enjoyed another bright spell.

Game over: Lars Bender (right) slots the ball home to earn Germany their third win of the group stage

Game over: Lars Bender (right) slots the ball home to earn Germany their third win of the group stage

Five minutes later, Bendtner got in around the back and tried at full stretch to lift the ball over Neuer, but without success as he had his shirt pulled by Holger Badstuber.

One goal for Denmark was still required to send them through and send Germany home since Portugal had taken the lead against Holland, but just as Low's side were showing the first signs of tension, they regained the lead from an unlikely outlet.

Mesut Ozil's throughball was intended for Miroslav Klose, but it was too far in front of the Lazio striker but inviting for full-back Bender, who coolly took his first international goal in the 80th minute to take Germany through and knock Denmark out of Euro 2012.

Ups and downs: Germany celebrate Bender's winner but Denmark are dejected after being knocked out

Ups and downs: Germany celebrate Bender's winner but Denmark are dejected after being knocked out

Denmark are dejected after their Euro 2012 exit