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Italy Euro 2012 Focus - Final offers Balotelli another chance to shine

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By Andrew Tuft

Sunday 01 July 2012

After his aborted arrival against Spain, when ice ages passed as he bore down on goal only to be robbed by Sergio Ramos, Mario Balotelli finally came to the Euro 2012 party at the semi-final stage with two goals to send Italy into the final at the expense of Germany.

Balotelli had already scored against the Republic of Ireland, an ingenious overhead effort, but it was as a substitute against one of the weakest sides in the competition, not having been entrusted from the outset against one of the favourites. Balotelli responded to the responsibility with a brace. It was a dominant attacking performance from the Manchester City forward at the time when the world’s eyes were watching to see if his bravado could be backed up on the biggest occasion yet.

The answer was a thundering yes. When the stage was set Balotelli met the challenge not with a display of petulance that has become depressingly familiar, not with an undeserved show of arrogance, but instead the response of a player who may well prove to be as great as he contends to be. It is too early to define the career of one so young but Balotelli could go a long way towards creating his legacy with his contribution in Sunday’s final.

A starring role in dethroning the defending European champions could help propel Balotelli into the same stratosphere as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. In Ronaldo and Messi are two individuals of comparable ability but vastly different attitude. Balotelli’s approach is different again, not so much a happy medium between the two but rather all the flash of the Portuguese, even less humility and even more swagger, whether it is justified or not.

It should not be implied that Balotelli has not achieved anything in his career so far. He already has more league winners’ medals than many of his fellow professionals will ever claim. But has Balotelli ever been central to his side’s success? At Manchester City last season he was far from decisive in delivering the title. Indeed, Balotelli’s major contribution to the run-in was to jeopardise City’s title challenge with a red card against Arsenal, which led Roberto Mancini to suggest Balotelli would never again play for City, the Daily Mirror confirmed.

The manager relented but the threat was there. Mancini is also not the first high-profile boss to struggle with Balotelli. While both were at Inter, Balotelli and Jose Mourinho clashed frequently with Mourinho later describing Balotelli as “unmanageable,” the BBC reported, despite Balo winning three Serie A titles. His time at Inter ended in ignominy, falling out with the supporters and the legendary figure of Javier Zanetti as well as Mourinho.

That though was the Balotelli still finding his feet, unable to raise his performances on the field high enough to compensate for the trouble be caused off it. If he does inspire Italy to victory over Spain on Sunday we may be witness to the birth of a Balotelli ready to live up to his potential.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Spain v Italy

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