Will it be magic or mayhem Balotelli on brink of major international tournament debut
20:17 GMT, 9 June 2012
Mario Balotelli is about to make his first start for Italy in a major tournament and the expectations could not be higher.
No other player in Italy’s team has the combination of talent and physical prowess that Balotelli possesses, which could be just what the Azzurri need in their European Championship opener against Spain on Sunday.
As Italy captain Gianluigi Buffon puts it: ‘There’s nothing to discuss about Mario in terms of football because he’s a pure talent — one of the few players who can make you win matches.’
Big night: Mario Balotelli could make his international tournament debut against Spain
But coach Cesare Prandelli says
Balotelli, the victim of racist abuse after the Italians’ visit to
Auschwitz, needs to improve his teamwork, adding this ‘could be the key
to success’ for him.
Balotelli, who also suffered racial taunting when he played in Serie A
for Inter Milan, has said he will walk off the pitch if he is subjected
to monkey chanting from fans.
The Italy manager said: ‘We have asked Mario and all the players to be
generous and play for the team. Balotelli has behaved in a proper way in
the last few weeks but he has to be aware that if he plays for the
team, this could be the right option.’
Good lad: Balotelli has caused no trouble for coach Cesare Prandelli (right) this week
Buffon added: ‘He is 22 and players at that age can commit mistakes, but the important thing is to learn.’
Italy go into the Spain contest rocked by a corruption scandal which has
already seen one of their players under investigation, Domenico
Criscito, withdrawn from the squad.
With their last warm-up game ending in a 3-0 defeat against Russia and
Prandelli forced to try Roma midfielder Daniele de Rossi in defence
because of injuries, Buffon admits Italy will have to upset the odds to
get anything from the world champions.
Struggle: Italy have had tough preparations for the tournament
‘Spain don’t have to fear Italy, they don’t have to fear anyone,’ admitted the veteran Juventus goalkeeper.
‘Most times in football, the strongest team win but sometimes those who fight the most win.
‘Italian football is undergoing a crisis at the moment but we can use it as motivation.’