For the eighth consecutive time, Italy had Germany’s number in a major tournament and until the 90th minute of Thursday’s semifinal, there was never a doubt. Call it a jinx, if you’d like, but in Italian, it’s known as a curse and it will soon be cast on to Spain.
After the Azzurri upset the Germans 2-1, they exalted over their accomplishment. Now they will carry that excitement into the title match.
The final with Spain will be a rematch of Italy's 1-1 draw that opened Group C. Throughout that battle, Mario Balotelli appeared hesitant, but the criticism that followed may have been the wake-up call the young star needed.
Since then, he has gone on an unrelenting rampage.
Balotelli’s two goals against the Germans were the death knell for a squad that had every intention of giving Spain a run for their money. And according to the Associated Press, the 21-year-old is far from finished:
This is the greatest night of my life, but I hope Sunday is going to be even better. In the opening matches I had a lot of chances, and I wasn't able to finish them. But In football you also need luck.
So how will the final play out?
Italy has won four World Cups, but their lone European Championship was in 1968.
In Spain, the Italians face a powerhouse that has ruled for four years. The Spaniards can write history by winning a three consecutive continental and world championship. And they have earned the respect of their peers with a World Cup title in 2010 and a European one in 2008.
But the odds are not exactly against Italy.
The last time Spain beat the Azzurri in a major international competition, the year was 1920. And please forgive the Italians for appearing to be overconfident because they are not. Instead, they are simply fearless.
Midfielder Claudio Marchisio expanded on that fact in the AP column:
We showed we're on Spain's level and that's where we started this run. It's no longer a question of fear. Now we've got to pull out everything we still have inside ourselves.
So with history on their side and a psychological edge that has frustrated their opponent for 92 years, keep an eye out for the Italians.
If Balotelli and company start fast, it could be a long day for Spain.