In a match that determined the second team to advance in the 2014 World Cup from Group D, Mario Balotelli did nothing to help Italy’s chances. The Azzurri had a chance to take second place over Uruguay, and the striker was removed at halftime. Balotelli was living up to the enigmatic part of his reputation. He sat on the bench in the second half with a blank stare, which summed up his performance in such a pivotal match.
In a match that featured 24 fouls in the first half, Balotelli received a yellow card that brought with it a future suspension. This was the most fouls in the first half of any match in the World Cup thus far. The infraction may have led to a red from some referees as Balotelli left his feet. It was as if he was trying to jump over the competitor to win the ball.
Instead, his foot connected firmly with the square of the back of Alvaro Pereira, while his shin also slammed into Pereira’s head.
With the fear that Balotelli would get yet another yellow, he was taken off at halftime, only for Italy to watch Claudio Marchisio get the red just 15 minutes into the second half. Italy were in a world of trouble, and it started with Balotelli’s lack of care in the first half. Cesare Prandelli thought it was in the team’s best interest to remove him in favor of midfielder Marco Parolo.
Italy simply needed a draw to advance in the World Cup. Unfortunately, Balotelli contributed nothing offensively to keep Uruguay on their toes, and did no tracking back to put pressure on the back line. Balotelli helped set a tone for Italy, and it seems they all followed his lead today.