Jun 24, 2013, 4:03 PM EST
Late yesterday, it was announced that Mario Balotelli would miss Italy’s Confederations Cup semifinal against Spain. On Monday, news got worse.
The AC Milan striker, one of the few internationally established goal scoring threats in Cesare Prandelli’s squad, has reportedly left the Italian squad, a muscle strain ending his tournament:
JUST IN: Balotelli left Italy training camp. Confederations Cup for him is over—
Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) June 24, 2013
Italy has eight goals in three games in Brazil, and given Balotelli’s only scored two of them (one from the penalty spot), the case for his indispensability doesn’t come through in the numbers. Discard the numbers, look at his play, his team’s set up, and the squad around him, and the influence of Balotelli’s difficult to exaggerate.
Super Mario may only have one open play goal in group play, but he serves an essential purpose at the top of Prandelli’s formation, one that has morphed from a 4-3-1-2 to a single striker look as a second forward has failed to emerge. That one-front is more demanding on Balotelli, particularly as he’s asked to win balls out of the back and hold up play while the likes of Claudio Marchisio and Emanuele Giaccherini. join the attack. With the team averaging just under three goals per game, something was going right for Italy, and Balotelli was a large part of it.
Gilardino, who plays as a lone striker at club level, is the obvious replacement, but his role in a 4-2-3-1 somehow seems different than the role Balotelli’s played. Italy can adapt, but with a more physically limited man up top, they’ll have to be less dependent on their striker.
Balotelli’s club teammate Stephan El Shaarawy doesn’t carry the same limitations, but he has yet to develop the kind of game that lends itself to Balotelli’s responsibilities. And with only one goal in nine international appearances, the 20-year-old is still feeling his way out at international level.
All of which is to say the obvious: Neither player is Mario Balotelli. Not many are. For all his enigmatic behaviors, few players provide their teams as many options as Balotelli, options that were evident in last year’s Euro 2012 semifinal when Italy upset Germany.
Balotelli’s two-goal game led the Italians to that tournament’s final. Unfortunately, if the Azzurri are going to spring another surprise, they’ll need to find a new hero.
Mar 5, 2015, 10:22 PM EST
Because who doesn’t love to critique and compare every team’s new jerseys?
Mar 5, 2015, 8:53 PM EST
The dribble was a thing of beauty, but he still had to apply the finish. Not a problem for Salah.
Mar 5, 2015, 8:15 PM EST
The season is officially on. Here’s a few reasons to get excited, in case you’re not already. (You should be.)
Mar 5, 2015, 7:00 PM EST
Jeff Cassar impressed in year one, but can he rebuild RSL and make them his own in year two?
Mar 5, 2015, 5:00 PM EST
Bruce’s boys are back, and once again, rebuilt. This changes little for a team with more championship aspirations.
Mar 5, 2015, 4:00 PM EST
Caleb Porter’s final foray in the Rose City? He’ll need the playoffs this year, otherwise…
Mar 5, 2015, 3:19 PM EST
After winning two of three titles last season, can the Sounders finally clinch that pesky MLS Cup?
Mar 5, 2015, 2:45 PM EST
From expansion team finishing first to making the playoffs to finishing in last, our writers have varied opinions on how MLS will unfold in 2015.
Mar 5, 2015, 2:08 PM EST
PST’s Editor and Lead Writer looks back at the midweek madness, and assesses where we are at with 10 games to go.
Mar 5, 2015, 1:20 PM EST
Can the Revs build on a fantastic 2014? Heaps hopes so…
Mar 5, 2015, 12:50 PM EST
In the latest MiB pod, Alexi Lalas stops by to preview the 2015 MLS season.
Mar 5, 2015, 12:20 PM EST
Here’s what the MLS commish had to say about the new CBA, as months of negotiating finally paid off on Wednesday.
Mar 5, 2015, 11:40 AM EST
Who will bounce back or come from nowhere to shine in 2015? Here’s a speculative look.
Mar 5, 2015, 11:00 AM EST
Saints’ players get stuck into some hockey on a break in Switzerland.
Mar 5, 2015, 10:06 AM EST
Evans and Cisse could face six-game ban if found guilty.
Mar 5, 2015, 9:30 AM EST
How will the Red Bulls get on as Marsch ushers in a new era?
Mar 5, 2015, 8:47 AM EST
Should the league or the players feel happier on the eve of the 2015 season after a new CBA was agreed?
Mar 5, 2015, 8:07 AM EST
Reid is going nowhere, as New Zealand international signs new deal at Upton Park.
Mar 4, 2015, 10:51 PM EST
Charlie Austin played well, and the club truly appeared unlucky not to find an equalizer in the 2-1 loss. They were a step off all night.
Mar 4, 2015, 10:00 PM EST
The aggregate loss leaves the Montreal Impact as the lone Major League Soccer hope in the CCL semifinals.
- Now that it’s happening, MLS’s 20th season is sure to be the best one yet 2
- 2015 MLS season preview: Real Salt Lake 0
- 2015 MLS season preview: LA Galaxy 1
- 2015 MLS season preview: Portland Timbers 0
- PST predicts Major League Soccer’s 2015 standings; Do you agree? 8
- Premier League Playback: With 10 games to go, here’s how things stand 3