Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 19th 2013 Contents A39
RIO DE JANEIRO---If last year s
European Championship was the
moment Mario Balotelli revealed
himself to a global audience, this
year s Confederations Cup is shap-
ing up as confirmation that he is
a force to be reckoned with on the
And if Italy appeared hesitant at
times to heap too much pressure on
Balotelli in Poland and Ukraine, that s
no longer an issue.
When Balotelli scored the winning
goal in Sunday s 2-1 win over Mexico,
it didn t come as a surprise. He was
a force to be reckoned with through-
out the game at the Maracana Sta-
According to Italy captain Gian-
luigi Buffon, the difference for
Balotelli is that he has gained more
confidence by playing regularly for
AC Milan since his January transfer
from Manchester City.
After 2 1/2 years of often being
relegated to the substitutes bench
in England, Balotelli returned to Italy
at the start of this year and scored
12 goals in just 13 appearances.
"Talent-wise, he s the same as a
year ago, because Balotelli will always
be extraordinary in the way he plays
football, but now he s also found
continuity with his club, which is
something he didn t have before,"
Buffon said Monday. "That gives
him serenity and extra self-confi-
"It s a huge advantage to have a
player like him," added Buffon, senior
member of the Azzurri at 35 and
one of few remnants from the squad
that won the 2006 World Cup.
Italy was still well stocked with
members of the 2006 squad at the
2009 Confederations Cup and it also
opened that tournament with a win,
beating the US 3-1. But then the
Azzurri lost to Egypt 1-0 and were
humiliated 3-0 by Brazil, resulting
in an embarrassing first-round elim-
ination for then World Cup holders.
The following year, Italy was again
eliminated after the first round of
the World Cup in South Africa.
"There s a substantial difference
between now and 2009," Buffon
said. "Over these last three years
we ve really matured in all aspects.
This is a national team on the way
up, and we re hoping to keep moving
Balotelli tied as top scorer for the
tournament with three goals when
Italy reached the final of Euro 2012,
including two spectacular goals in
the 2-1 semifinal win over Germany,
and he sees no reason why the
Azzurri can t go just as far here.
"We re here to do the best pos-
sible, to reach the final," Balotelli
said. "And I think this squad has the
quality to get there."
Quality was certainly evident in
the decisive goal for the first official
match at the renovated Maracana
stadium. It was a goal that combined
beauty and brute strength.
It started with a long vertical pass
from Daniele De Rossi. With his back
to the goal, Emanuele Giaccherini
then volleyed the ball on to Balotelli
with an acrobatic maneuver and
Balotelli did the rest, out-muscling
defenders on both sides of him and
slotting the ball past the goalkeeper
as he slid along the pitch.
The only negative aspect of the
goal came when Balotelli pulled off
his shirt, earning a yellow card. If
Balotelli picks up another yellow in
Italy s next match against Japan on
Wednesday in Recife, he ll miss the
Group A finale against host Brazil.
The yellow card, however, was
likely the last thing on De Rossi s
mind when he jumped on top of
Balotelli s naked shoulders to join in
the celebration. The image of Balotelli
carrying a teammate on his back was
more than appropriate.
Balotelli, a son of Ghanian immi-
grants, a player who has to deal with
racist chants almost every match, is
Italy s new leader. (AP)
PARIS---A trial involving Bayern
Munich star Franck Ribery and Real
Madrid s Karim Benzema on charges
they solicited an underage prostitute
has been adjourned until January.
The two France internationals face
potential prison terms of up to three
years each if convicted.
Ribery and Benzema were not present
as the trial opened in Paris yesterday,
and then was adjourned until January
for procedural reasons.
The players are accused of sexual rela-
tions with an underage prostitute.
Self-described escort girl Zahia Dehar
has alleged that Ribery flew her to Munich
as a birthday present to himself in 2009,
when she was under 18. She says she
lied to the players and told them she was
an adult. (AP)
Ribery, Benzema prostitution trial is adjourned
Balotelli confirms worth in Brazil
Mario Balotelli, centre, scores his side's second goal
past Carlos Salcido, left, and Hiram Mier during the
Confederations Cup group A match between Mexico
and Italy at Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro,
Brazil, on Sunday. Italy won 2-1. AP Photo
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