Balotelli

Brilliance from Balotelli

Italy called Antonio Di Natale into the starting line up at the expense of Mario Balotelli in one of four changes made by Cesare Prandelli ahead of this crunch Group C game.

The first half was a relatively even affair with Ireland making a positive contribution to the opening exchanges. After three minutes, a Damien Duff free kick was swung in but while the Italians initially failed to clear the first ball, a blue shirt scrambled clear before anyone could find the net.

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MATERAZZI BACKS BALOTELLI

It takes a lot to impress a hardened international, a World Cup winner and six times winner of Serie A, but Marco Materazzi remembers being stunned when Mario Balotelli burst on to the scene at Inter - he was THAT good!

Whilst Mario and Marco have both courted controversy since that first day when Balotelli turned up at training, both have proven themselves to be at the top of their game.

Marco remembers the first time he saw Mario, and believes he is destined for greatness.