Friday June 29 2012
Superb Mario!

Mario Balotelli turned potential into reality against Germany. Giancarlo Rinaldi takes a closer look at how vital he is to the Azzurri cause.

When Mario Balotelli compared himself with the world’s greatest players a lot of people pointed a finger of ridicule. A good footballer, they opined, but not entitled to consider himself among the game’s elite. Yet, on Thursday night, he achieved what Cristiano Ronaldo had singularly failed to do 24 hours earlier and blasted his country into the Final of Euro 2012.

It was a tour de force by the Manchester City striker and one in the eye for the myopic little band of Azzurri followers who once unveiled a banner proudly pronouncing: ‘No to a multi-ethnic Italy!’ In town and city squares around the country, a nation leaped for joy as Germany were knocked out of a major competition for the umpteenth time. Nobody gave two hoots about the goalscorer’s family history.

Having spluttered along at times in the tournament so far, Super Mario exploded into life in the biggest game of his short international career. He was full of the kind of menace, intent and application which had Cesare Prandelli grinning from ear to ear. As he has been telling us all for months, Balotelli is a man who can truly make a difference.

It would be unfair to this team, however, to single out its scorer against Germany as the only key to its success. Slowly but surely they have built up a head of steam to give themselves a shot at the European title. But the signals of a new attitude and approach have been there from the outset, at least to those willing to see them.

Yes, the defence has been resolute – in keeping with previous sides – but this is not a team about caution and containment. Instead, it wants to go out and impose its style on an opponent and take the initiative. It has not always worked, but when it has, as in the semi-final, it has looked mighty impressive. In the process, the rest of the world appears to have finally woken up to what Italian football fans already knew about the magic of Andrea Pirlo.

The only fly in the ointment had been the failure of a striker to really hit form. In many of their matches – most notably against England – the Azzurri produced plenty of nice play but not enough clinical finishing. That is what Super Mario provided in style in the clash with Germany.

One more obstacle remains for Italy and their stupendous striker, but what a barrier it is. With their trademark rapid-fire possession style, Spain have starved opponents of the ball once again this tournament and conceded just one goal – to Prandelli’s side in their opening game. The rematch presents a formidable challenge.

This Italian side has already provided proof that the attractive play their Coach produced when in charge of Fiorentina can translate to La Nazionale. But now it has the chance to let him do something he never achieved with the Viola – win a trophy. Nobody would grudge him that success and a triumph for the belief that nice guys do not have to finish second.

However, he will need his tournament joint-top scorer to build on the rich form he showed against Germany. A similar display against Spain would give Mario Balotelli, at the age of just 21, every right to claim he is one of the best in the business. And those who doubted him before might well find themselves simply nodding their heads in agreement.

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
i think what was disrespectful is spain hammering italy when they were down 10 men. balotelli was right to walk off, the rest should of followed suit. balo had a great tournament along with the rest and i am one proud italian canadian having him part of our team..
on the 2nd July, 2012 at 10:57pm
not so super mario tonight tough game to play in..................and its no shame losing to Spain , but Bolatelli was so disrespectful for walking off the field without shaking hands with 1 spanish player.

Forza Ireland , Italy , Napoli
on the 1st July, 2012 at 9:08pm
Superb article!!!
on the 30th June, 2012 at 6:37pm
Some people can not be pleased. Course by scoring 2 goals does not make him great, he had a superb performance against Germany & he has had a good Euro. Look @Italys worse performance and its no shock to see it was when Mario started on the bench. He troubles defenders,though does not always get it right he has more +'s than -'S. For a 21 year old I am happy with his contribution and he has the potential to be one of the greats only time will tell. Keep your head Mario & assist Azzurri to Trophy
on the 30th June, 2012 at 8:02am
Balotelli had his best game for Italia. First goal still has to be scored Boss. Second goal superb. And let's not forget this Germany team could do no wrong before Thursday. When we beat them suddenly it's their defence isn't so good etc. Give credit where its due. Balotelli could implode or he could as he is at the moment get better with every game. Remember folks HE IS ONLY 21. It will be very hard against Spain and they are favourites. A few prayers and a bit of luck. Forza Italia !!!!
on the 30th June, 2012 at 7:58am
I think that Mario in benefiting from the team spirit in the Italian team, not the inflated ego's that surrounded him at Inter and now at Manchester City. You can see the bond he has with Gigi Buffon and the respect he clearly has for his captain, which makes me think the perfect club for Mario would be Juventus. As a Bianconeri fan I surprise myself for even thinking that, when just three weeks ago the idea of Mario in black and white would have been insane. Now it makes perfect sense.
on the 30th June, 2012 at 4:10am
On the question of Balottelli being one of the great players of the the world, I think back to the early days of Cassano--a player with all the skills and to be one of the greats. What He lacked was his ability to control his emotions and his temper. There is no doubt that Mario has all the requisite skills, strength, ability and you name it to be one of the greats. He will need to learn to channel his anger and emotions in order to hit that plateau. Mario, silence us that are critical of you.
on the 30th June, 2012 at 2:41am
@ Boo, couldnt agree more. It just takes one shot to go in and then a striker can have the Midas touch!
on the 30th June, 2012 at 1:09am
you are right, he isnt a 'great in the world' and as i said in previous coments he has wasted so much in this tournament but lets give credit when it is due. in previous games he didnt score but played part of a team and against germany he scored 2 against a footballing machine. Lets hope for Italy he can do it again and as you said not waste his chances like he did against England. It was nice to see him smile after scoring...a little more Italian this time ;)
on the 30th June, 2012 at 12:31am
Good article nice to see something positive for a change! usually these articles
point out the weakness's or how Italy should change things, but as everyone can see Prandelli has done a masterful job!! after the shambles of South Africa he has brought pride back in the azzurri!!! Cesare your a top geezer!! a true Italian humble and very family orientated, you lost your wife and showed great love for her when you put your career on hold whilst you grieved, Prandelli you deserve total respect!
on the 30th June, 2012 at 12:21am
I wish Balotelli to score another goals against Spain in oder to be crown Euro 2012 top scorer and those goals to help AZZURI to clinch the cup.
on the 30th June, 2012 at 12:04am
“Football is a sport in which you play eleven against eleven and in the end the Germans win… unless they encounter the Italians."
on the 29th June, 2012 at 10:32pm
So he scores two goals and now he is great? I guess that means Mario Gomez is also an elite striker. Come off it. I like balo, he is good but his first goal could have been scored by anyone. poor defending. Second goal i thought he got lucky because he had the same chance against england but ruined it. I don't know what he will be capable of against pique and Ramos, they are good defenders and quite mobile.
on the 29th June, 2012 at 10:19pm
Surely in the player ratings Pirlo should be given a mark of 10 out of 10 for his performances so far. What more does he have to do??
A score of 8 is insulting and a bit stupid guys. His performance against Germany was perfection so why be miserable about it?
on the 29th June, 2012 at 9:08pm
we love you from iran supermario

forza italia.
this is dream. before euro i believed in it and now we are here.
on the 29th June, 2012 at 8:18pm
BALO i eat my words what a game and what a player you were awsome but the whole team played as a great unit. I dont know what happened but when Balo & Cassano came off...the team began to slow and make mistakes. we need to keep consistant to the end simply because....ITALY CAN. ONCE AGAIN the pundits backed the Germans and once again it took the Italians to correct them. For CP first tournament what a result. FORZA ITALIA
on the 29th June, 2012 at 8:14pm
Bravo Balo you did it and you did it well but lets not forget that this is his job as a striker and remember the way CP has managed this team to acheive these results. Cassanos amazing turn & cross and montelivo' long pass for Balo to head and smash the net as just as good as the quality of Balos finishing which unfortunatly Di Natale, Diamante and others could not wonder Buffon was angry. FORZA ITALIA YOU DID US PROUD
on the 29th June, 2012 at 7:58pm
BTW I know Azzurri fans haven't forgotten, but did everyone else in the world forget or just plain miss the fact that Pirlo also had an awesome 2006 World Cup? I believe he may have finished as high as 3rd in the Golden Ball voting and was also named to the "All-Star Team", for what that's worth. So even if one doesn't watch Serie A, this isn't the 1st time he's been huge in int'l competition.
on the 29th June, 2012 at 4:43pm
Just Like the great Italian side and games of '70, '82, '06 & Now! Balotelli came of age last night in that very game! he will be an azzurri legend for sure — A star was born last night in my view. Genius! I think we have to thank prandelli for what he has done so far with this team. I really hope he stays for the next WC 2014! Please Cesare don't go anywhere — 'Your Country Needs You!' Forza come domenica!!!!!
on the 29th June, 2012 at 4:23pm
Great Article!. I thank the Football Gods for this Euro 2012 because it has put several things into perspective: 1) We are a globalized world and with that shall come a toleration of multi-etchnicity. Italia's Mario is a proof of that. 2) Pirlo is world class only that the world has now witnessed what we see every sunday in our Serie A. 3) Cassano is world class and one of the most gifted players out there, his demo on how to use both legs was just enjoyable. 4)Sunday can be Epic. Forza Ragazzi
on the 29th June, 2012 at 2:36pm
Italy have done fantastic in this tournament surely they deserve to win the trophy to reflect this? we have been the superior team in every department please azzurri dont stop now!!!

Forza Italia - Italia per sempre!!!
on the 29th June, 2012 at 1:31pm
A modern day striker is more than just about scoring goals and Mario has got the potential to be up there with the greats. He has shown it in most the matches but because of his lack of goals he has been labeled as poor. All of a sudden 2 great goals later and he is the striker of the Euros. He has been class all through the Euros and has at long last found his shotting boots. FORZA MARIO, FORZA AZZURRI.
on the 29th June, 2012 at 12:10pm
Super mario balotelli un fennomeno.....GOLLLL
on the 29th June, 2012 at 11:22am
To those who complained about Mario' misfires in earlier games, I'd suggest they remember the guy is just 21 years old. As a Palermo fan I could tell you about all the sitters that Cavani used to miss when he was 21, 22, 23 years old under far less pressure than the Euros. Only after his WC experience w/ Uruguay & his transfer to Napoli did Cavani become the "priceless" striker he is now at 25. Italy has no attacking threat who compares to Balo: give him time. This is just the beginning.
on the 29th June, 2012 at 11:15am
The only question now is to stick or twist? Does Prandelli trust the back four against Spain or revert to the 3-5-2 which worked well against them in the group stage?
on the 29th June, 2012 at 10:38am
I hope Balotelli's performances in these championships shows Italy that they need to trust youth more, we wouldn't have got this far with Pazzini or Gilardino up front
on the 29th June, 2012 at 10:33am

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