When Mario Balotelli compared himself with the world’s greatest players a lot of people pointed a finger of ridicule. A good footballer, they opined, but not entitled to consider himself among the game’s elite. Yet, on Thursday night, he achieved what Cristiano Ronaldo had singularly failed to do 24 hours earlier and blasted his country into the Final of Euro 2012.
It was a tour de force by the Manchester City striker and one in the eye for the myopic little band of Azzurri followers who once unveiled a banner proudly pronouncing: ‘No to a multi-ethnic Italy!’ In town and city squares around the country, a nation leaped for joy as Germany were knocked out of a major competition for the umpteenth time. Nobody gave two hoots about the goalscorer’s family history.