As if Italy didn't have enough to worry about against Spain in the semifinals of the 2013 Confederations Cup, the side was dealt a crushing blow when top scorer Mario Balotelli was declared out for the match Thursday at Castelao, per Football-Italia.net.
Per the Football Italia report:
Late on Sunday evening chief medic Professor Enrico Castellacci confirmed to journalists that the muscular problem in the left thigh would not heal in time for Thursday’s semi-final.
It is a huge blow for the Azzurri, who have already lost Ignazio Abate for the rest of the tournament due to a dislocated shoulder.
Balotelli has scored a team-high two goals in three matches at the Confederations Cup this year. His presence is even more important considering the loss of Ignazio Abate and the fact that Italy has scored the fewest goals (eight) among the four remaining teams in the tournament.
Spain, of course, is a powerhouse.
Led by Fernando Torres (five goals), the Spanish have scored a tournament-high 15 goals so far, including a 10-0 shellacking of Tahiti last Thursday. Their defense has also been solid, allowing just one goal (to Uruguay) in three matches.
Balotelli may fail to reach his ultimate potential on the pitch due to a questionable temperament, but the fact of the matter is, he can change games, and Italy needs that type of presence against the dangerous Spanish.
Beyond the goals scored, Spain has registered a whopping 45 shots on goal so far this tournament, per FIFA.com. The side hasn't lost possession on a tackle yet.
Will Italy beat Spain on Thursday?
Beyond Torres, forward David Villa has been excellent, notching three goals and two assists, while midfielder David Silva has added two goals and two assists. It's been a complete team effort for the Spanish.
Italy already had concerns heading into its matchup with Spain. While the Italians defeated Mexico and Japan, they lost in their biggest test against Brazil on Saturday, 4-2. Brazil held the ball for 55 percent of that match, out-shooting Spain, 11-4, according to FIFA.com.
When you go up against powerhouses like Spain, you need star power. The loss of Balotelli is a loss of star power and thus will mark a loss for Italy in the semifinals.