Italian striker Mario Balotelli's lethal goal-scoring came to life when the Azzurri needed it most in the 2012 European Cup.
In spite of his hot temper and subpar play with his national team prior to the tournament, Balotelli undoubtedly proved his worth to the Azzurri. Two goals from the 21-year-old in the team's semifinal match against Germany led to a 2-1 victory over a significantly favored German side.
The first of the two came in the 20th minute off of a low, accurate cross from Antonio Cassano that hit Balotelli in stride for the header. Goal No. 2 for the talent was as Balotelli-esque as they come, finishing with a missile of a shot after a beautiful long ball fell at his feet.
In his current tenure with EPL champion Manchester City, Balotelli has been criticized for an inability to demonstrate his composure on the pitch. In spite of his 13 goals in 14 starts with the team, at times he gets especially hotheaded to the point it's detrimental to the team.
In those 14 starts, he was also given a yellow card four times and a red card twice. The four yellows are half of the eight that Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry were booked for, yet Balotelli started in 19 fewer matches. The two red cards were a team high which is outright inexplicable for a player that started just 14 games.
Considering Manchester City won its next six games in convincing fashion to take down rival Manchester United for the EPL title after benching the talent, there is no question it was his negativity that brought down this team.
Many questioned why Italy's management had such a faith in his play after the Man City incident, and now Balotelli has proven exactly why he is worth the hassle.
In spite of the criticism that loomed large prior, at just 21 years of age Balotelli has helped Italy upend one of the top five teams in the World for a spot in the European Championship final. With a lengthy career ahead of him, there's no telling just how dominant a force this player will be in due time.
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