Skip to content

Mario Balotelli leaves Italy camp, out of Confederations Cup

Jun 24, 2013, 4:03 PM EST

Italy v Brazil: Group A - FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 Getty Images

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:

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Juan Agudelo close to signing with his former MLS team, New England Revolution

    Jan 26, 2015, 4:05 PM EST

    Juan Agudelo, FC Utrecht Juan Agudelo, FC Utrecht

    After eight months without a club, Juan Agudelo is reportedly returning to the place he should have been all along: MLS.

  2. VIDEO: Legendary Argentine playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme retires

    Jan 26, 2015, 2:59 PM EST

    Juan Roman Riquelme Juan Roman Riquelme

    As the soccer world will no longer see the maverick skills of the Argentine playmaker, here’s a look at some of his best moments.

  3. FA Cup fifth-round draw: Arsenal vs. Middlesbrough, Midlands derby, minnows at home

    Jan 26, 2015, 2:38 PM EST

    Here’s the draw for the last 16 of the FA Cup, as PL big boys get more tough tests.

  4. Head of Dutch FA, Michael van Praag, will challenge Blatter for FIFA presidency

    Jan 26, 2015, 1:57 PM EST

    UEFA Europa League Handover In Amsterdam UEFA Europa League Handover In Amsterdam

    Van Praag announces his intentions to run against Blatter, says he has the backing of five federations.

  5. Drinks on her! Lady wins $24,000 after $3 bet predicted huge FA Cup upsets

    Jan 26, 2015, 1:00 PM EST

    Hartlepool United v Blyth Spartans - FA Cup Second Round Getty Images

    Betting on five underdogs away from home in the FA Cup will win you serious cash.

  6. Diego Fagundez says he was “tired of waiting for the U.S.” after choosing to play for Uruguay

    Jan 26, 2015, 12:32 PM EST

    FBL-U20-SOUTHAM-URU-COL FBL-U20-SOUTHAM-URU-COL

    Fagundez explains why he couldn’t wait any longer to select his national team.

  7. Chelsea’s Andre Schurrle rumored to want Wolfsburg move. Should he move on?

    Jan 26, 2015, 12:00 PM EST

    Swansea City v Chelsea - Premier League Getty Images

    If Wolfsburg can agree a fee for Schurrle, should he leave Stamford Bridge?

  8. Transfer ban for Real Madrid? Probe launched after signing of Venezuelan kids

    Jan 26, 2015, 9:20 AM EST

    Official logo of the spanish football team, Real Madrid. Official logo of the spanish football team, Real Madrid.

    The signing of two Venezuelan youngsters could put Real in plenty of trouble with FIFA, as Barcelona-esque transfer ban could be on the cards.

  9. VIDEO: South Korea beat Iraq to reach first Asian Cup final since 1998

    Jan 26, 2015, 8:34 AM EST

    FBL-ASIA2015-KOR-IRQ FBL-ASIA2015-KOR-IRQ

    The Koreans will face either Australia or the UAE in Saturday’s final in Sydney.

  10. City’s Pellegrini concerned at home form after Arsenal, Middlesbrough losses

    Jan 25, 2015, 11:33 PM EST

    Britain Soccer FA Cup AP

    “I am concerned, not because of Chelsea but because we didn’t score in our last two home games,” Pellegrini said.

  11. Eto’o passes physical at Sampdoria, move from Everton all but official

    Jan 25, 2015, 10:50 PM EST

    twitter.com/sampdoria twitter.com/sampdoria

    The 33-year-old Cameroonian striker joins a Sampdoria side currently tied for third in the table with 34 points.

  12. Rodgers: Sturridge could face Chelsea in League Cup, certain to be back for Saturday vs. West Ham

    Jan 25, 2015, 10:13 PM EST

    Liverpool FC Training Session Getty Images

    “If he’s not ready for Tuesday then he’ll be back, for sure, against West Ham next weekend,” Rodgers said.

  13. Scotland, Wigan mid joins Chicago Fire as third Designated Player

    Jan 25, 2015, 9:22 PM EST

    twitter.com/chicagofire twitter.com/chicagofire

    Maloney turned 32 on Saturday and will be unveiled by Chicago on Monday.

  14. Sepp Blatter keeps talking trash at UEFA regarding FIFA election

    Jan 25, 2015, 8:31 PM EST

    FBL-FIFA-BALLONDOR-AWARD Getty Images

    Sepp Blatter: Kind of like “The Godfather”. But let’s be clear, we’re talking “The Godfather: Part III”.

  15. La Liga & Serie A roundup: Valencia win in top-four battle; Juventus grow title lead to 7

    Jan 25, 2015, 6:30 PM EST

    Daniel Parejo, Valencia CF Daniel Parejo, Valencia CF

    There’s a new top-four team in Spain, while little has changed in Italy, both for good and bad.

  16. Africa Cup of Nations roundup: Congo, Equatorial Guinea victorious in group finales, advance

    Jan 25, 2015, 4:28 PM EST

    Javier Balboa, Equatorial Guinea Javier Balboa, Equatorial Guinea

    Two of eight quarterfinals places were clinched on Sunday as the late drama continues at AFCON 2015.

Featured video

Top five Premier League goals: Week 22