Jun 24, 2013, 10:08 AM EDT
The Confederations Cup semi-final match-up between Spain and Italy just lost more of its gloss as Mario Balotelli has been ruled out of the clash with a thigh problem.
The Italian Football Federation made the announcement following a series of medical tests on Balotelli’s left quadriceps following Italy’s 4-2 loss to Brazil on Saturday.
The federation stopped short of saying that Super Mario was done for the tournament, claiming they would continue to monitor his status in the hope that he could return for the Azzurri’s next match – either the final or the third-place game. If Italy are defeated by Spain on Thursday, one can expect that Balotelli will not be risked in a third place match.
Balotelli has enjoyed a strong showing in the World Cup warm-up tournament, powering home the match-winner against Mexico, scoring a penalty in the 4-3 win over Japan and setting up Emanuel Giaccherini’s goal in the 4-2 loss to Brazil.
Balotelli’s injury adds to Italy’s injury woes as Ignazio Abate was sent home after separating his shoulder and midfielder Ricardo Montolivo is out after suffering a head injury against Brazil. Andrea Pirlo, who was sidelined from the Brazil match with a muscle problem, faces a late fitness test to see if he’ll be ready for the Spain clash.
With Balo out, expect Cesar Prandelli to switch from a 4-3-2-1 to a 3-5-2. Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini will play as the back three and Christian Maggio and Emanuele Giaccherini will line up as wing-backs while Bologna’s Alberto Gilardino and AC Milan’s Stephan El Shaarawy are the likely candidates to lead the front line.
Italy and Spain kickoff this Thursday at 2:30pm EST on ESPN.
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