Jun 24, 2013, 4:03 PM EDT
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.
Jul 2, 2015, 1:40 PM EDT
The latest gossip is right here, with updates on two monster transfers.
Jul 2, 2015, 1:04 PM EDT
England’s head coach was full of pride and admiration for his team despite falling at the semifinal hurdle.
Jul 2, 2015, 11:57 AM EDT
Kilnsmann reveals he has decided to take the armband off Clint and hand it to Bradley.
Jul 2, 2015, 10:25 AM EDT
Describing the scene from England, as the Lionesses helped to inspire a nation this summer in Canada.
Jul 2, 2015, 9:23 AM EDT
French international is reportedly mulling over an offer from FCD. What do we think about this?
Jul 2, 2015, 8:47 AM EDT
Manchester United’s “Chicharito” will not play for El Tri this summer after being injured in a friendly.
Jul 2, 2015, 7:40 AM EDT
The U.S. Department of Justice wants to bring FIFA officials accused of corruption to the USA.
Jul 2, 2015, 12:59 AM EDT
Japan beat the U.S. to win the 2011 World Cup. The U.S. beat Japan to win the 2012 Olympics. Round 3 takes place Sunday in the 2015 Women’s World Cup final.
Jul 2, 2015, 12:28 AM EDT
A Major League Soccer franchise is going to win the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Jul 1, 2015, 11:57 PM EDT
Mark Sampson spoke in detail about the character of Laura Bassett and how he hopes girls in England are inspired for the future.
Jul 1, 2015, 11:11 PM EDT
Full credit to England for an inspiring World Cup, and to Japan for getting to a second straight World Cup final.
Jul 1, 2015, 10:51 PM EDT
Three weeks from tonight are the Gold Cup semifinals, with the final on July 26 in Philadelphia.
Jul 1, 2015, 10:11 PM EDT
From Brandi Chastain and Jeb Brovsky to total strangers from England and beyond, my goodness, people are trying to console Laura Bassett.
Jul 1, 2015, 9:12 PM EDT
United says it remains committed to bringing MLS to Minnesota, and it’s worth wondering if the rival Minnesota group is hampering progress.
Jul 1, 2015, 9:02 PM EDT
Defending champion Japan advances to second straight Women’s World Cup final.
Jul 1, 2015, 8:20 PM EDT
Big story for Dortmund, even if it’s a bit under-the-radar.
Jul 1, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT
Donovan, of course, was left off the World Cup roster last summer by Klinsmann, much to the chagrin of many U.S. fans.
Jul 1, 2015, 6:45 PM EDT
England’s fairytale run to its first Women’s World Cup semifinal meets the reigning champions in Edmonton on Wednesday
Jul 1, 2015, 5:50 PM EDT
Shay Facey knows Lampard from his time at Manchester City, and wasn’t bashful in praising the situation.
- Clint Dempsey replaced by Michael Bradley as USMNT captain for Gold Cup 3
- Despite devastating World Cup exit, England’s women inspired a nation 5
- US ask Switzerland to extradite seven FIFA officials 0
- The world wants Laura Bassett to know that her own goal is nothing to be ashamed of… 8
- Minnesota United misses MLS stadium deadline; Deputy commissioner speaks out 2
- Stoppage-time own goal sinks England, sends Japan to Women’s World Cup final 6