Euro 2012 Man of the Day: Mario Balotelli
Andrea Pirlo was brilliant (again) and Cesare Prandelli got his tactics spot on, but there was only ever going to be one winner of today’s Man of the Day award.
There was always a sneaking feeling that Mario Balotelli would make a major contribution to this European Championships, but it might have come as a surprise to a lot of people that his biggest impact of all (so far, at least) would be purely down to football reasons.
Until last night, a brilliant picture of Balotelli doing his own thing while the rest of the Italian squad engaged in some core exercises in training and a pretty decent goal against Ireland were his major contributions to the competition, but Mario was never going to exit the stage quietly. It’s just not in his nature.
Because of his zany antics and combustible nature, the fact that Balotelli is more than a half-decent footballer is often conveniently ignored. Just prior to kick-off last night, John Giles spoke of his reservations about the Germany team that had been selected but predicted that they would win, largely because Balotelli was playing for Italy.
Balotelli proved Giles and countless more of his detractors wrong on the pitch with two excellent goals, the first a well-taken header after some Antonio Cassano brilliance, and the second a strike of such brute force that Manuel Neuer didn’t even see it fly past him into the top corner, probably the goal of the tournament to date.
This being Balotelli, there was more to it than that and he celebrated his second strike by stripping off his shirt to reveal a very chiselled midsection. If it was anyone else, it would have come across as incredibly arrogant, but it seemed to suit Balotelli perfectly; even Ray Houghton remarked that he had a nice body for God’s sake.
Even though his celebration was incredibly foolish in that he incurred a completely unnecessary yellow card with just under an hour to play, it added to the occasion and to the cult of Balotelli, spawning thousands of reactionary tweets along the lines of ‘only Balotelli’ or ‘Balotelli, you gotta love him’.
Knowing that there was a very good chance that he’d incur another caution, Prandelli called him ashore well before the end and in his absence, the Italian defence stood firm to ensure that we’ll see the City striker again before the end of the tournament.
And to cap it all off, he showed that he is not just a big ball of crazy and that he too is in possession of a human side by sharing an incredibly touching embrace with his adoptive mother and dedicating his brace of goals to her after the match.
Earlier this week, Balotelli made a hilarious reference to a postman when talking about celebrating goals and although it is not always in a positive manner, when it comes to entertainment and talking points, like a postman, he always delivers.
No doubt he’ll be a villain again at some stage in the future, but he deserves to be acclaimed as a hero for his exploits last night, just as he deserves our McCoy’s Man of the Day award.