ROME (Reuters) - Italian fans gloated about their 2-1 win against Germany in the Euro 2012 semi-final on Thursday, saying they hoped it would help Prime Minister Mario Monti who is locked in a standoff with German Chancellor Angela Merkel over the euro zone’s future.
“This shows Germany who’s in charge,” said Andrea Arces, 20, a student from southern Italy who joined thousands of Italian fans celebrating and waving flags in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo.
“Italy is a strong country and this is how we fight back.”
Two stunning first half-goals by forward Mario Balotelli steered Italy to victory over favorites Germany and into the final of the European soccer championship where they will meet Spain on Sunday in Kiev.
Supporters in Rome’s squares and parks lit colored flares, chanted in unison and shouted “Grazie Balotelli” after the final whistle blew, and car horns were beeping well into the night.
Monti also faces a showdown with Germany at a two-day European Union summit in Brussels and has promised to press hard for emergency action to lower soaring Italian borrowing costs, a proposal that Merkel has rebuffed so far.
As they grapple with the effects of a German-led European austerity drive that has led to higher taxes, pension reform and spending cuts in the euro zone’s third largest economy, Italians have become increasingly embittered.
While Germany’s economy has powered ahead of its peers, Italy’s has fallen deep into recession in 2012 as rising unemployment and stagnant wage growth fuels a slump in domestic demand.
But the Azzurri’s victory over Germany, who were missing their “lucky charm” Merkel in the crowd of the Warsaw stadium, has at least given Italians one thing to smile about.
“This game shows that Italy is good at something,” said 19 -year-old student Martina Capo, who was draped in an Italian flag. “There are many things that are positive about Italy and this is one of them,” she said.
Others feared the match might reinforce Germany’s cool stance towards Italy’s proposals.
“They’re never going to give us any euro bonds after that,” said 44-year-old Paolo Brusca, who watched the game in a park in Rome with his father.
“We’re a real stone in their shoe. We’re the only ones that really scare them.”
Additional reporting by James Mackenzie; Writing by Catherine Hornby; Editing by Andrew Osborn