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Italy need semi-final hero Balotelli to make the breakthrough in Kiev

| 01.07.2012

Italy have scored as often as Spain in the knockout rounds of Euro 2012 in arguably trickier fixtures and were the first to fire in their Group C clash, however there is far more faith being shown in the holders’ strikerless attack.

Five of the top six in the first goalscorer market all represent the world champions: Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres at 6/1, Fernando Llorente and Alvaro Negredo at 7/1 and World Cup match-winner Andres Iniesta at 8/1.

By contrast, Mario Balotelli is the only Italian to fall within that range at 7/1, suggesting that the 16/5 outsiders to win in 90 minutes are reliant almost exclusively on the unpredictable 21-year-old to conjure up some magic.

As the most captivating character on show at Kiev’s Olympic Stadium – a billing Antonio Cassano might dispute – there are plenty of opportunities available to punters to bet on what kind of impact the Manchester City man will enjoy.

He is 7/2 to score, 7/1 to provide an assist, 5/2 to be booked, 25/1 to complete a swift hero-to-zero transformation by being sent off, 15/8 to be permitted to play the full 90 minutes by coach Cesare Prandelli and 9/2 to be substituted.

Both finalists aren’t expected to line up too differently to how they did in their respective semi-final triumphs, with a maximum of one change each anticipated.

For Italy, the dilemma is at the back where natural right-siders Ignazio Abate and Christian Maggio are available again. The former is tipped to replace Federico Balzaretti, the left back who switched sides to accommodate Giorgio Chiellini and cover for Abate against Germany.

Balzaretti has been the Azzurri’s unsung hero though while Andrea Pirlo and more recently Balotelli have soaked up the adulation and it would be very harsh if, after three superb displays, the Palermo defender is benched for the final.

For the 21/20 favourites, Negredo is unlikely to be retained following an anonymous outing against Portugal. Either Fabregas or Torres will presumably come in, with the “false number nine” stating his case with the decisive penalty against Portugal.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.



Craig Kemp

Craig has written for Ladbrokes since the 2010 World Cup, having previously gained a Media & Sports Journalism degree and contributed to publications including the Racing Post. His main areas of interest are horse racing and UFC, but he is also an avid X Factor gambler and likes nothing more than indulging in a spot of Hip Hop Karaoke.