Mario Balotelli is the main striker for the Italian National Team, as they head to Brazil for the World Cup this summer. Balotelli has the ability to be a world class striker when he is on his game.
Italy saw what Balotelli can do when he impressed at the EURO’s in 2012. He held the ball up, he scored goals, and gave center backs like Mats Hummels from Germany problems throughout the matches.
He needs to continue to play like that if Italy have a shot at winning the World Cup here in 2014. Cesare Prandelli has said that Italy is going to focus on three formations for the World Cup. The 3-5-2, 4-3-1-2, and the 4-5-1.
Some players on Italy seem to have their place locked. For instance, Buffon at goalie seems to be set in stone. Pirlo is another who is locked, just a matter of exactly where he plays in the adjusted formations. Barzagli and Chiellini are surely locks in the defense whether its 3 center backs or a back four. De Rossi and the aforementioned Balotelli are the other two that look set to play whatever Prandelli throws out there for a formation.
The 3-5-2 is a formation I see Italy going with for a majority because Italy have the quality of three center backs in Barzagli, Chiellini, and Bonucci. With that formation, I feel Balotelli is vital. Italy will go as far as Balotelli takes them.
Balotelli may be isolated at times as the only striker, but he has the ability to post up defenders and hold up play to allow his teammates to turn defense into attack. With the 3-5-2, it would seem that Balotelli would be playing alongside Giuseppe Rossi, who at the beginning of the Serie A season, was scoring goals for fun for Fiorentina before getting hurt.
Balotelli is arguably unstoppable when he is at his best, unfortunately, his play is inconsistent. Balotelli can make runs in behind the defense as well as take players on, and I think he and Rossi can be a dynamic duo at the World Cup.
Italy is a side that is not going to use the width of the pitch as much as some sides, so Balotelli will have the luxury to have space to operate which is dangerous for the opposition. I expect in a 3-5-2, that Rossi would make the majority of the runs and play deeper when they do not have the ball. But that makes Balotelli’s job much more important when they do not have the ball.
I think Italy are a dangerous side at this year’s World Cup because of their balance of youth and experience. Italy have a strong defense that they can count on. They are built from the back up and that is important at a tournament such as the World Cup.
Italy will be a strong side in Brazil and I expect them to do well, especially if Balotelli is on his ‘A’ game. Balotelli has a lot of pressure on his shoulders to score goals and I think he can shine. But if Italy are to advance and go far in this tournament, Balotelli is the one player that must contribute.