Mario Balotelli ends doubts: He remains Italy's main man
The honeymoon period between the Italy international and the Rossoneri consisted of 13 goals in 15 games from his January 2013 arrival.
Fast forward 18 months and his career for club and country was on the brink. With these problems rising to the surface, Balotelli needed a bright display in Italy's World Cup opener against England, and he produced just that.
Scoring the winner against the country who spat him back to Italy, Balotelli has proven why is he the first name on the team sheet of Cesare Prandelli.
Italy needed Balotelli to stand up, and having received a lack of service from his teammates throughout the match, the former Manchester City forward looked like he needed to produce a moment of magic on his own.
Balotelli was eager to score against the Three Lions, and it looked like he would open his World Cup scoring with a cheeky chip over a lost Joe Hart. But it wasn't to be as he was denied this amazing goal by Phil Jagielka, who cleared his effort off the line. But it was a glimpse that he was at his clinical and poaching best.
Then in the second-half it came: Antonio Candreva walked right past Leighton Baines and delivered the killer cross that Balotelli was craving the entire match, and he dispatched it past Joe Hart with a back post header.
The goal was just as important to Mario as it was to Italy. Balotelli needed to show that he is the best forward option Italy have. In recent weeks the hype around Ciro Immobile had heightened, but Balotelli showed his class and why he started ahead of the new Borussia Dortmund man.
With one arch of the neck, Balotelli has shown he is capable of reviving his nation and his career. Mario is back!
- by Julian Boland