He might often wonder why it’s always him, but Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli just can’t help himself, can he?
Because if it isn’t his bizarre and well documented off-field behaviour (you’ve heard all the stories, I don’t need to repeat them) or his petulant streak on the pitch, then it is his undoubted star quality that makes up so much of his enigmatic reputation and Euro 2012 has just about seen the full Balotelli repertoire in just three weeks.
And when he is on song, he is unplayable: just ask Germany. After a typically erratic series of performances in the group stages, where one brilliant goal was countered by some subdued performances and tetchy, disinterested body language, an excellent showing against England in the quarter-finals led to a phenomenal striking display on Thursday night. Super Mario tore Germany apart to score two fantastic goals and give Italy a well deserved place in Sunday’s final against reigning champions Spain.
It may have upset people (like my good self) who had rather lumpy antepost bets on the Germans, but you had to admire Italy’s performance and in Balotelli, they had a striker worthy of gracing a major tournament final.
I don’t buy into all this ‘Spain are boring’ nonsense – if you can’t appreciate the splendour of Spain’s play, you are watching the wrong sport.
His second goal, struck like a bullet past the helpless Manuel Neuer, might be my favourite finish of the whole Euros and with the City man in such fine form, I’m going to back him to continue in the same vein against the Spanish.
He is 7/1 to open the scoring in the final with bwin (9/4 to score any time) and it is worth getting on. Italy aren’t blessed with a team full of goals and Balotelli is the one player who can do the unpredictable, the unexpected, the downright outrageous.
And as we’ve seen with City, when he is hot, he is hot, and goalscoring streaks are the norm. Add in the extra factor of the Golden Boot – Balotelli will more than likely win outright if he scores – and all the incentives are there for him to become a national hero.
As for Spain, picking out a goalscorer is difficult as they bid for a historic third major tournament win in a row.
I don’t buy into all this ‘Spain are boring’ nonsense – if you can’t appreciate the splendour of Spain’s play, you are watching the wrong sport – but their goals tend to be spread around and without knowing what formation Vicente del Bosque will choose to adopt, tipping a scorer without team news is tricky.
Spain have started without a recognised striker as much as they have started with one at Euro 2012, which almost makes them more of an art project than a football team, so second guessing Del Bosque isn’t easy.
He threw a major curveball by picking Alvaro Negredo in the semi-final win over Portugal, but the Sevilla man’s atrocious performance means he won’t be getting picked on Sunday. So will it be Cesc Fabregas or Fernando Torres who plays furthest up the pitch?
Without knowing, I’d rather be backing one man who will definitely be playing and that is Andreas Iniesta.
Iniesta is a magician, pure and simple, and although he hasn’t scored in the Euros so far, he has threatened to on several occasions. He is so instrumental to Spain’s play that he is worth a go at 10/1 to score first and 13/4 to notch at any time.
He is the man for the big occasion (he scored the winner in the 2010 World Cup final) and as the one Spain player who genuinely breaks from midfield to stretch opposition defences, Iniesta is worth a small play at those decent odds.
Recommended bet: Mario Balotelli to score at any time @ 9/4
Outside punt: Andres Iniesta to score at any time @ 13/4
Long shot: Mario Balotelli to score first @ 7/1
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