Spain vs. Italy: Why Mario Balotelli Can Dominate Euro 2012 Final
Italy have reached the final of Euro 2012 at Germany's expense, where they will face reigning Champions Spain, thanks to a Mario Balotelli brace—and now, the king of crazy can go on and replicate his success on the very biggest stage.
A deft header and a thumping top-corner strike from "Super Mario" put paid to the German challenge and sent his side through to the final, leaving Balotelli as joint top scorer in the competition with three goals.
Spain will present very different opposition for Italy, though the two are well-acquainted, having fought out a 1-1 draw in the group stage earlier in the competition.
With everything up for grabs, it could take just a single moment of magic to win the entire tournament.
Here are five reasons why Mario Balotelli can take centre stage and dominate the Euro 2012 final.
Confidence: Nobody Does It Better
For any of his faults, there is one thing Mario Balotelli certainly does not lack: confidence in himself.
Fresh from hitting a barnstorming brace against Germany in the semifinals and a shoe-in for a starting spot in the final in Kyiv, Balotelli will be raring to get back out on the field and put himself about against the Spaniards.
Normally very much a hit-or-miss player who might be as likely to have an anonymous match as a great one, he will now be looking to add some short-lived but extremely-memorable consistency to his game on the international stage.
A single goal from him could see him win the tournament for his country and the golden boot for himself all in one go.
Unfinished Business Against Spain
A defensive error from Sergio Ramos in the group stage match between Italy and Spain let in Mario Balotelli, bearing down on goal from just 12 yards out.
Somehow, time seemed to stand still for Balotelli, while it fast-forwarded for Ramos, who made up a good 10 yards of ground on the Italian striker who dallied, dawdled and watched his chance to shoot dwindle away—before losing the ball after a fine challenge.
It was a great chance to hand Italy the upper hand, and he fluffed his lines, and being substituted later in the game without having anymore of an impact will hardly have improved his mood.
Balotelli had a chance to score against the reigning world and European champions, which is not something that any top striker should be passing up.
Should that chance come along again on Sunday, put your money on Mario to make his mark.
His Movement Can Trouble the Spanish Defence
Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique are both fine, fine defenders, but perhaps Spain are lacking a little organisation and authority at the back at times during this tournament.
Something which can perhaps be put down to the absence of injured Carles Puyol.
Pique is strong and Ramos aerially dominant, but a little clever movement from a top forward can go a long way to evading their blocks, tackles and interceptions.
Balotelli showed with his small movements prior to the pass for each goal against Germany that he understands how to use space to his advantage; if he does this against Spain and receives the right service, he could really do some damage to the Spaniards.
Italy Need a New Striking Hero
The Italian greats of the final third are gone.
Alessandro del Piero is gone, Francesco Totti is gone, Pippo Inzaghi is gone and Christian Vieri is gone.
Even the could-have-been-greats, the likes of Luca Toni, Fabrizio Miccoli and Alberto Gilardino, are gone or no longer asked to perform.
A new wave of Italian forwards are coming up the hill in the shape of Fabio Borini and Giuseppe Rossi—but Mario Balotelli has the talent and maverick ability to rule them all and cement his place in Italian football folklore in the here and now.
Do it in this game, and Balotelli will have his place in the squad and team assured over the course of the next World Cup qualifiers and beyond, regardless of his off-pitch shenanigans, simply because he will have proven what he is capable of and could do again.
Italy need a new hero, and Balotelli can easily be that man.
He Will Be the Focal Point for Some of the Finest Passers in Europe
Spain can pass the ball. Boy can they pass the ball.
But so can Italy.
Pirlo, de Rossi, Montolivio and Marchisio are all fine controllers and movers of the ball and look to set free Balotelli at every opportunity, especially after a fast turnover of possession as they try to break beyond the Spanish midfield.
If Montolivio in particular can pick the ball up behind the pressing midfielders, Alonso, Xavi and Busquets, he will have the time to turn and look for a ball—and the quality to execute it.
With Antonio Cassano doing plenty of work in the supporting act for Balotelli, he can feed off the Milan forward as well and get on the end of plenty of balls in and around the Spanish box.
It's not going to be an easy feat to beat Spain in a major final—but if Italy are to win Euro 2012, Mario Balotelli is going to be their best bet of doing it.