You just can’t keep him out of the news. Former Manchester City maverick Mario Balotelli was again making headlines at the weekend, this time with a brilliant performance and winning goal for Italy, and when he goes head-to-head with former Manchester United adversary Shinji Kagawa and Japan on Wednesday, all the smart money has to be on him firing his country to another victory.
From the sublime to the ridiculous to the downright barmy, you never know what you are going to get from Balotelli but when he plays as he did in Italy’s 2-1 win over Mexico on Sunday, you do wonder if City were a tad premature in letting the striker go.
Since his move to Milan in January, there has been the usual daft antics (he was fined for smoking in a train toilet, for God’s sake) but there have also been goals – a shedload of them, in fact.
He has hit 12 in 13 appearances for the San Siro club and the 22-year-old looks in the mood to make his mark at the Confederations Cup – just like he did at Euro 2012 last summer.
Balotelli struck Italy’s winner 12 minutes from time on Sunday to cap a fine display and he can do likewise against the Japanese in the second round of Group A fixtures.
The Italians are 67/100 to win the match, with the draw at 13/5 and Japan a 9/2 chance, but at even money to score at any time it is worth once again siding with Super Mario to do the business.
While Japan were reasonably organised and decent in possession in their 3-0 loss to hosts Brazil in the tournament’s opening match, they offered very little cutting edge in the final third and look too weak to put up much resistance against Cesare Prandelli’s men.
Italy were very good against Mexico: defensively sound, resourceful as ever with Andrea Pirlo pulling strings in midfield and threatening up front – but it is Balotelli that can make the difference.
As well as the 12 goals the former Inter forward has struck since moving back to Serie A, Balotelli has been in fine form for Italy, too, scoring five goals in the nine internationals since his nation were beaten in the final of Euro 2012 by Spain.
He hit three goals in that tournament as well, which makes his record read eight goals in his last 13 games for Italy, and at even money to net against a Japanese side that have conceded eight goals in their last five matches, keeping just one clean sheet, he has to be backed to keep his hot streak going.