Italy: Mario Balotelli


Written by Alessandro Sant Albano in 2013

Forward, #9, 23 Years Old at time of 2014 World Cup, 24 at time of edit.

Edited by Johnny Salinas in 2015

Over the past three years, after Italy’s abysmal run in South Africa, Cesare Prandelli’s new-look, technical Italian side, has been a revelation and will go into the 2014 World Cup as one of the top 5 favorites to win it all. Much of this is due to the emergence of a true attacking star in Mario Balotelli.




Immediately after his appointment in the wake of Italy’s embarrassing performance at the 2010 World Cup, Prandelli handed Balotelli his debut against Ivory Coast[1]. Despite some early inconsistent performances for Italy, Balotelli has been phenomenal in the World Cup Qualifiers and, most importantly, at the European Championships in 2012. Prandelli used him as a starter at Euro 2012, despite the fact that Balotelli had only scored one international goal in nine matches up until the tournament — the striker rewarded Prandelli with three goals in the tournament, including a “Fuoriclasse” performance against Germany. Since then, Balotelli has scored five more international goals, often at crucial moments. His current record of 10 goals in 24 starts is sensational at the international level and part of this can be attributed to his move back to Italy in 2013[2].


Balotelli goals:


Since moving to Milan, Balotelli has been the star of the team. The team works around him, he is the out and out striker: upfront, at the centre of Milan’s 4-3-3. The lack of experimentation has thus allowed him to score 12 goals in 12 starts. Despite the fact that Balotelli has shown us flashes of genius, he is still only 20 years old, and due to his lack of maturity, he has been criticized time and time again for his reckless nature. Who are we to expect at the World Cup? The Balotelli of the current 12th placed Milan or the Super Mario of last year?


The answer is that nobody really knows. For all the immaturity Balotelli showed at his previous club Man City — the bottle-rocket-fueled bathroom fire; crashing his Audi R8; the physical altercation in practice with his father-figure coach, Roberto Mancini — he has also enjoyed some supernatural moments. Balotelli was the Man of the Match in City’s 2011 FA Cup final victory. He scored the first two goals in an epic 6-1 win at rival Manchester United and provided the assist for Sergio Agüero’s dramatic last-minute goal in the final game that gave Man City the ’12 Premier League title[3].


why always me[4]


An absurd amount of  media attention is paid to Balotelli’s wacky behavior that in many ways he’s underrated as a player, but also leaves an enormous amount of pressure on his shoulders. However, pressure is not new to a boy born to two Ghanaian immigrants in the racist south of Italy.  Balotelli’s Ghanaian birth parents placed him in the care of a lovely Italian Jewish couple in the town of Brescia at the age of 1. He was raised by Francesco and Silvia Balotelli. “Brescia is my home,” Balotelli says. “It’s where I will live one day when I stop playing football. When I’m in Brescia, I’m relaxed.” Balotelli says he knew only two or three other black children while growing up. While in his hometown of Brescia he never encountered any racist behavior, travelling for his football often led him to some confrontational instances. His way to vent was on the football field, massacring average Italian youth sides with his pace, shot and physicality. [5]


His development into a consistent lone striker for Milan has encouraged Prandelli to use Balotelli in that position at the international level, too. Previously utilizing  a 4-3-1-2 or a 3-5-2 formation,  Prandelli has recently favoured a 4-3-3 or a 4-3-2-1 system, with two runners supporting Balotelli. However, Prandelli still has a major problem surrounding the tactics of the lineup. Italy lacks true wing backs or even wings for the up coming World Cup, yet 5 in the midfield means using two defensive minded players which ultimately take away from Italy’s biggest advantage, their midfield and the lack of a capable replacement for Mario Balotelli remains a major concern.



During Prandelli’s reign

Italy record







Mario Balotelli







 Alessio Cerci







A Gilardino







Lorenzo Insigne







Pablo Osvaldo







Giuseppe Rossi
















From an Italian perspective, Stephan El Shaarawy, who has simply dropped off the face of the Earth with the arrival of Balotelli in Milan has created a huge question mark in the Italy attack. El Sharaawy, who finished with 16 goals in Serie A before last year’s Christmas break, has only managed to score 3 since the arrival of Baoltelli[7]. So the question is: why can’t they play together? How come El Shaarawy’s goals have simply dried up? Nobody is sure, but Prandelli will have to work this out, if he is to win a World Cup. With the combination of El Shaarawy and Balotelli firing, Italy could have the most lethal attack in Europe.


It looks as if Prandelli will look to Giuseppe Rossi as Balotelli’s counterpart as his resurgence to football in Italy has been outstanding. But, once again this would leave out “il faraone.”



Overall, with the advantage of still having three World Cup winners in his lineup, Prandelli and De Rossi, Pirlo and Buffon—to impart that leadership to the younger players. Gone are the days when Italy are synonymous with clinging on to their aging stars, unable to fill the void.




In Riccardo Montolivo, Antonio Candreva, Leonardo Bonucci and Claudio Marchisio, Italy have players who are in their mid-20s and have established themselves in the starting lineups of Italy’s finest clubs like Lazio, Juventus and Milan. These are the players who could still be around for the World Cup in Russia.

Fresh from graduating from the under-21 team, Lorenzo Insigne has begun to make his mark, already scoring for the senior team, a beautiful goal against a world class Argentina squad.[9]

Italy has the heart, the character, the experience and enough quality to entertain thoughts of a fifth World Cup in Brazil.

Performance at the World Cup

Despite entering the World Cup with a talented squad and a healthy Mario Balotelli, Italy had a disappointing run. The Azzuri compiled a 1-2-0 record with their only win coming off their opening game against England. Balotelli played in and started every match that Italy was involved in, but only managed to find the back of the net once. The Italian national team showed that their defense was as strong as ever with each loss being a 1-0 loss and the midfield manage to dominate possession with the average time of possession by the Azzuri being 57% after all 3 matches, but Mario Balotelli was unable to step up on the offense and lead the Azzuri to victory.[10] [11]

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Continue on to Group D – Uruguay: Edinson Cavani

Group D – Costa Rica: Bryan Ruiz

Group D – England: Wayne Rooney

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Learn about Italy’s National Anthem


How to cite this article: “Italy: Mario Balotelli,” Written by Alessandro Sant Albano (2013), World Cup 2014, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, (accessed on (date)).


Works Cited:

[1] Mario Balotelli’s Azzurri Rise, Michael Cox, 2013, ESPN FC,

[2] ibid

[3] Mario Balotelli has a talent that’s every bit as electric as his personality, Grant Wahl, 2013
Read More:


[5] Mario Balotelli has a talent that’s every bit as electric as his personality, Grant Wahl, 2013
Read More:


[6] , Kris Voakes, Goal, 2013.



[9] Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons:

[10] Italy World Cup 2014: Preview, Squad and Stats.” N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2015. <>.

[11] “FIFA World Cup – News –” N.p., 25 June 2014. Web. 02 Mar. 2015. <>.

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