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EURO 2012

FOOTBALL

Ciao! Italians kick Germany out of Euros

Italy kicked Germany out of the Euro 2012 tournament on Thursday night with a 2-1 victory over Joachim Löw's suddenly unimpressive team. Italy will now take on Spain in the final on Sunday.

Ciao! Italians kick Germany out of Euros
Photo: DPA

Italy striker Mario Balotelli broke hearts with a first-half header and strike as the inexperienced Germans – the youngest of the 16 teams at Euro 2012 – failed to cope with Cesare Prandelli’s boys.

“The most bitter thing is that this team has so much potential for so much more,” said team captain Philipp Lahm as the Germans’s 15-match winning streak in competitive games was broken. “We were not clever enough,” he added.

The knock-out ensured their trophy drought dating back to Euro ’96 would last at least another two years to the 2014 World Cup, should they qualify.

While Germany had a faint lifeline when Mesut Özil converted a 92nd-minute penalty after a handball by Federico Balzaretti, it was too little, too late.

For all their potential and the impressive attack-minded football they showed in their Euro 2012 wins over Portugal, Holland, Denmark and Greece, Löw’s team clearly had no Plan B when things went wrong.

It is a very, very bitter defeat… We made some stupid mistakes and we shouldn’t have conceded the goals like that,” said Lahm.

Having dropped three of his forwards for last Friday’s 4-2 quarter-final win over Greece, Löw again tinkered with his starting line-up, but this time it back-fired as the Italians ruled the midfield in the first half.

Arsenal-bound Lukas Podolski was hauled off at half-time, striker Mario Gomez also made way for 34-year-old veteran Miroslav Klose after the break, while Toni Kroos barely troubled the Italian defence from the right wing.

“I wanted to strengthen things in midfield, which is why I brought in Toni,” explained Löw. “The goals we conceded came from mistakes, because we weren’t present enough around the area.

“We had things under control at the start, but after falling behind we took more risks and weren’t as well organised, he said. Adding “after going 2-0 down, we had to risk everything.”

Having finished third at the last two World Cups and lost the Euro 2008 final, this is the fourth consecutive tournament the Germans have reached at least the semi-final. Löw’s contract runs until after the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

AFP/hc/jcw

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FOOTBALL

Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.

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