Euro 2012: Why Benching Mario Balotelli Would Be a Mistake for Italy

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Euro 2012: Why Benching Mario Balotelli Would Be a Mistake for Italy
Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Heading into the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship in Poland and Ukraine, Italy manager Cesare Prandelli and his squad left many questions to be answered, and much to be desired.

Three consecutive losses without scoring a goal in the build up to the tournament were compounded by injuries and a match-fixing scandal that swept the nation, and robbed the former Fiorentina manager of his starting left-back Domenico Criscito.

But after an exciting 1-1 draw with Spain during the opening Group C match, many of those questions were answered. Prandelli utilized the 3-5-2 formation to great effect, Daniele De Rossi was immense at the heart of the defense, and Italy proved that they could indeed find the back of the net.

But one new question that arose following the match was whether or not striker Mario Balotelli would retain his place in the starting XI following his disappointing attacking display against the reigning European and World champions.

Squandering a glorious opportunity early in the second half (after doing everything right to create the chance), Balotelli was otherwise unable to threaten Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas, and was ultimately substituted before the hour mark.

To make matters worse for the youngster, his replacement Antonio Di Natale came in and promptly gave Italy the lead with his first chance in the 60th minute.

That goal now has some suggesting that the Udinese striker should start in the Azzurri's critical match with Croatia later today, at the expense of Balotelli.

Here are five reasons why that would be a mistake.

What do you think? Should Balotelli be dropped from the starting XI to face Croatia?

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