Zee Media Bureau/Rajdeep Saha
New Delhi: You may hate him or love him, but Italian sensation Mario Balotelli showcased his superiority in the Group of Death`s supreme battle against England on Saturday.
Super Mario, who has hogged the limelight on and off the field in recent years, strengthened the faith placed in him by coach Cesare Prandelli. The 23-year old AC Milan striker scored the decisive winner goal against the Three Lions and got Italy off to a flying start in their World Cup campaign.
In the 50th minute, Mario took Antonio Candreva’s cross just a few yards short of the net and knocked in a header to break open a game that had been going 1-1. The controversial striker`s goal was a massive boost for him as it was his first World Cup appearance. After the match Balotelli stated that it was a special feeling with this being his first World Cup the goal was fantastic.
Earlier, Prandelli had cited Balotelli`s importance in leading the Italy attack and had said how he needed to make the chance count. With the superb goal, Balotelli has shown again why he is one of the best in business and has given Italy an outside chance to top Group D.
On the other hand England`s talisman Wayne Rooney failed to live up to the expectations as he looked limited in the entire match. Apart from providing the assistance for Daniel Sturridge`s equalising goal, Rooney`s vitality was wasted by Roy Hodgson and that was visible throughout.
Hodgson chose Raheem Sterling ahead of Rooney for the No. 10 position behind the striker as Rooney was shifted to the left flank. In Rooney`s defence, he was playing in a position he doesn`t enjoy and it showed, in particular in the first half, when Leighton Baines was offered little or no protection as Italy prodded away at England`s left flank.
Rooney missed two crucial chances as he shot wide after being in a position to score just outside the box with assists from Leighton Baines and Ross Barkley. That summed up Rooney`s night as he failed to create much impact.
What will be interesting to watch is how Hodgson decides to use Rooney. With the option of playing Danny Welbeck and Raheem Sterling on the left flank, will Hodgson put him back behind the striker? That will be interesting to watch in England`s other two matches in the Group stage.