Germany still can't figure out Andrea Pirlo, and still can't beat Italy when it counts.

While Mario Balotelli scored both goals Thursday, Pirlo produced a superb performance as the Italians frustrated the Germans for the eighth time in a major tournament, winning 2-1 to reach the European Championship final.

''The hurdle of Italy was too high,'' Germany striker Miroslav Klose said. ''Perhaps the fact that we had never beaten them was in the back of our minds.''

In the 2006 World Cup semifinals against Germany, Pirlo set up the first goal in extra time of a 2-0 win over the hosts. On Thursday, Pirlo was named man of the match.

Germany was seeking its fourth European title with a talented but young team. It will now go home instead and hope that it will mature into a contender for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

''It's a very bitter defeat. We made stupid mistakes that led to the goals,'' Germany captain Philipp Lahm said. ''We tried everything in the second half but our goal came too late. We have so much potential in our team but if we cannot give the right performance at the right time or are not clever enough, then we lose such a game.''

The Germans came into the semifinals on a 15-match winning streak in competition matches, going back to the game for third place at the 2010 World Cup, a 3-2 win over Uruguay.

They were in their fourth straight semifinal match at a major tournament, were the only team to win four games at this year's event and looked capable of snatching the title from Spain - the team the Germans lost to in the Euro 2008 final and in the 2010 World Cup semifinals.

But before they got a chance to knock off their nemesis, they ran into Pirlo.

The playmaker masterminded another Italian victory, controlling the match with vision and pinpoint passing, even if he did not play a role in either of the goals. But the Germans looked incapable to taking the ball away from him, and the Juventus star always seemed to find the free man.

''The Italians played well, and especially Pirlo had an outstanding game,'' Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger said. ''They won deservedly.''

At 33, Pirlo has proved time and again that he is still in his prime. He led Juventus to an undefeated Serie A season and the Italian title last month, a year after AC Milan gave up on him.

In all, Pirlo hasn't lost a Serie A match since Dec. 18, 2010, having also gone the second half of the 2010-11 season undefeated with Milan. With him in charge, Italy is also undefeated in competitive matches over the past two years - having compiled 11 wins and four draws since its first-round exit from the 2010 World Cup.

Coming into the match, Germany coach Joachim Loew had shown a talent for making all the right choices, even changing his entire forward line in the 4-2 win over Greece in the quarterfinals.

This time, Loew made three changes, returning striker Mario Gomez and forward Lukas Podolski and introducing midfielder Toni Kroos for the first time in the starting lineup.

It had no effect. Gomez and Podolski were left in the locker room at halftime, and Kroos made little impact in a midfield that could not find a way to take Pirlo out of the match.

''I wanted to strengthen the central midfield with Toni. The goals came from the mistakes in the back,'' Loew said. ''After going down, we were not organized well and we hurried.

''If we had scored earlier, there could have been more for us. The disappointment is great. Nobody is speaking in the dressing room. The players are crying,'' Loew added. ''But I am not going to question everything we've done. This team has great quality. It will continue to develop and learn.''

The German defense, suspect before the tournament but solid in the first four games, finally exposed its weaknesses.

Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng were easily shaken off by Antonio Cassano before he crossed for Balotelli's first goal. Lahm failed to follow up a long ball and left the Italy striker alone to beat Manuel Neuer with a powerful shot.

Although Mesut Oezil scored from an injury-time penalty, the Germans never looked like the polished, flashy team from the previous matches and the 2010 World Cup.

The German plan heading into the match was to impose their quick-passing, one-touch game, but instead found the Italians controlling the ball and Pirlo changing the pace almost at will.