Italy’s 2014 World Cup hopes lie on the broad shoulders of Mario Balotelli. The AC Milan forward fired the Azzuri to the 2012 European Championship final and will need to be at his best come 2014 if Italy are to do well again.
Paddy Power price the Italians at 20/1 for World Cup success, which highlights the fact that they have an adequate squad but not a squad that is capable of setting the world alight.
At the Euros in 2012, Italy were not particularly fancied, but they still progressed to the finals solely due to the exploits of two men: Andrea Pirlo and Mario Balotelli. These two players again are Italy’s best hopes for a successful World Cup.
Luckily for Italy, Balotelli is a big-match player; he loves playing the big teams as witnessed when he single-handedly destroyed Germany at the 2012 Euros. Inspirational performances such as that win you tournaments and if Balotelli can play like this in Rio then Italy will suely do well.
Goals win tournaments and Balotelli has proved himself to be a competent scorer on the international stage. He has scored 12 goals in 27 games for Italy, which is rather unremarkable, but during 2013 he has scored seven times in 11 appearances. He is now really starting to find his feet for Italy and is clearly turning into a regular goal scorer. Next summer, Balotelli will be a mainstay in the side as well as a consistent scorer, which is promising for Italy.
If the 23-year-old can score four or more goals at the 2014 World Cup then Italy have a huge chance of success in terms of shrugging off current World Cup favourites like Brazil and Argentina.
Beside his goal scoring prowess, Balotelli’s hold-up play is also very important. Using his considerable size and strength Balotelli can hold the ball up while he waits for support. This can allow Italy to play the brand of counter-attacking football which will be vital when playing against stronger attacking teams such as Germany or Brazil.
There is no doubting that Balotelli’s form at next year’s World Cup will be decisive for the Italian national side.