The AC Milan forward says that the only thing that counts in Natal on Tuesday is that Italy beat Uruguay to qualification, not his personal face-off with Luis Suarez
Italy forward Mario Balotelli is refusing to be drawn into a personal battle with Uruguay’s star striker Luis Suarez ahead of Tuesday’s do-or-die World Cup clash in Natal, and says that all that matters is that the Azzurri qualify for the next round.
The two nations are level on three points going into the final Group D clash, but Italy’s superior goal difference means they only need a draw to progress to the last 16. Uruguay must win to pip Cesare Prandelli’s men to qualification.
Inevitably, the build-up to the match has centred around Balotelli and Suarez – but the Italian is not interested in individual glory.
“It’s not a battle between two individuals, it’s between two teams who want to be in the second round of the finals,” Balotelli told Times of India.
“We will be fighting to survive and that is motivation enough for all of us. I’ll be happier to win the game rather than scoring and yet losing the game.
“I genuinely believe that Suarez will be thinking along the same lines too.”
Italy appeared to be cruising to qualification from Group D after a Balotelli header helped defeat England 2-1 in their first match, but they then fell to a shock 1-0 loss to Costa Rica in Recife last Friday.
“It happens in football and that is why the game is so unpredictable,” Balotelli explained.
“We played well, created chances but we failed to put the ball in their net. We all know that we cannot win every game.
“So, you have to accept some defeats, no matter how bitter it feels. But that’s in the past. Now we are eager to be on the field again to continue our battle.”
The World Cup has witnessed a number of shocks, with holders Spain and England aready out and a number of other big European nations such as Portugal also risking elimination.
“That’s good for football,” the 23-year-old insisted.
“But we are not surprised since there is very little difference between countries now. In the final phase, every player, including me, wants to excel on the field.
“Now, we all are aware about the threats Uruguay pose for us. We have prepared ourselves accordingly.”
Italy are expected to line up in a new 3-5-2 formation against Uruguay, with Balotelli set to start in attack alongside Borussia Dortmund newboy Ciro Immobile – last season’s top scorer in Serie A with Torino.