Confederations Cup 2013: Three lessons as Balotelli nets Italy’s winner

Confederations Cup 2013: Italy's Mario Balotelli scores a 78th-minute winner to secure a 2-1 victory over Mexico in Group A

Mexico
1
Italy
2

Balotelli looks twice the player he was for Man City

Italy’s Mario Balotelli was always considered a problem at Manchester City. If the 22-year-old did something good, he would almost inevitably negate it with something negative the following week. Balotelli still has that bad boy streak, as shown by his red card recently, but he gave Mexico’s defence a torrid time and was simply excellent on Sunday night. His work rate has improved massively and his desire when in the shirt of a side he loves is much more than when he was at City. The AC Milan striker came up with the winner, out-muscling Francisco Rodriguez and finishing well. The often disgruntled and seemingly bored Balotelli seems to be a thing of the past, and within the first minute, the forward was coming deep for the ball and looked lively. Balotelli could have given Italy an early lead with a left-footed snap-shot but his attempted chip from all of 30 yards shows the confidence the Milan striker has. He did lose his temper once, but it was forgivable as he was hauled down by Hector Moreno when clean through, with the referee unmoved. It appeared Balotelli had a point to prove – and he certainly proved it.

Hernández would thrive if he played regularly

Javier Hernández is far from being a first-choice striker at Manchester United. Robin Van Persie, Danny Welbeck and, for now anyway, Wayne Rooney are ahead of the Mexico striker in the pecking order at Old Trafford. But surely if the Little Pea were to leave United, he could become a superstar at another club. Hernández was limited to few chances against Italy but he still, albeit from the spot, got his name on the scoresheet. Many would say penalties are easy but he was under pressure having stolen the ball from Giovani dos Santons. He brilliantly sent world class goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon the wrong way to cancel out Andrea Pirlo’s absolutely superb free kick. His record at international level is exceptional with over 30 goals already, averaging better than one every two games.

Italy and Mexico should do well at the World Cup

After Brazil set the Confederations Cup alight on Saturday night, we were spoilt with another thoroughly entertaining game between Mexico and Italy – and both sides should do well next year in Brazil. Italy blow hot and cold in major tournaments but Pirlo seems to be improving with age, while Balotelli matures and Emanuele Giaccherini was also very impressive. Andres Guardado looks a decent prospect for Mexico, and if Dos Santos and Hernández hit form what with it being close to home, the plucky Mexicans can do well on the biggest stage of them all next year. Guardado, the 26-year-old Valencia winger, in particular, seemed a very good player. Having previously been courted by Aston Villa, it would be no surprise if more Premier League clubs chase him this summer, should he continue to perform at a high level.

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