Why Italy Manager Cesare Prandelli Needs to Get Mario Balotelli Under Control
The ongoing saga of Mario Balotelli continues after the Italian striker picked up a double yellow in the second half of a goalless draw between Italy and the Czech Republic.
Italy now has 14 points in Group B, four more than second-place Bulgaria.
There's no doubting it, the Azzurri went to Prague thinking that a draw would essentially equal a win. Prandelli put out a side that was similar to the one which was electric against Brazil in the World Tour, but this time they failed to replicate their scintillating form.
However, the major story coming out of this European World Cup qualifier had to do with the polarizing Balotelli.
Even though he has been clinical for Milan since joining them in the January transfer window, Balotelli is still maturing and needs a patient coach who is willing to accept the occasional growing pain.
Too much has already been made of his red card against the Czech Republic.
Having watched every minute of Mario Balotelli since he came back to Serie A this calendar year, it's clear that opposing defenders put a little more into their tackles to try and rile him up.
Referees often take a harsh stance against Super Mario, using previous offenses as a measuring stick for the severity of punishment.
Were his two yellow cards a bit harsh against the Czechs? Probably. Should he have contained himself a bit better knowing he had just been booked? Certainly.
A livid Balotelli stormed off the pitch, punching and kicking every square centimeter of the tunnel wall that surrounded his walk of shame back to the dressing room.
Despite the situation, the calm Prandelli is the perfect anecdote for naive behavior of this sort.
He's a coach known for his fantastic relationships with players, and he's been the catalyst for this new-look Italian side which caught the world by surprise in the Euro 2012 competition. Just like he did with Fiorentina back in his domestic coaching days, Prandelli knows just how to squeeze the very best from his squad.
The Catenaccio mindset was eradicated, and the Azzurri became a neutral fan-favorite with their cavalier approach and aesthetically pleasing displays of football.
Balotelli will return and be a hero for Italy like he was against the German national team in the Euro 2012 semifinals.
Thankfully these petulant acts by Super Mario are diminishing as the months go on, and he's becoming the player Italian fans dreamed of.
The most important thing for Prandelli will be to keep supporting his star player, and knowing that these acts are not out of maliciousness, but rather a flared temper which comes from not only within, but also the occasional unfair refereeing treatment.
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