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Euro 2012 Final: Spain vs. Italy

Spain is favored to win Sunday’s Euro2012 soccer final. One goal allowed so far. Spain amazes with its possession and hundreds of passes leading to a rare goal. Spain makes people crazy with its invincibility.

And yet, and yet…there is the Balotelli factor.

Italy’s new god has become better as the tournament progressed. A maddening figure, nurtured by manager Cesare Prandelli to play as directed, he has become Italy’s main threat. Add in a new compatibility with Antonio Cassano and, well, he’s the figure that makes some people hesitate to name Spain as the outright favourite.

Mario Balotelli, for those who don’t follow the ins and outs of European soccer, is an intriguing as he is maddening.

When Prandelli met the press the day after the semi-final victory over Germany, he was asked a loaded question. The query was whether he thought the “new Italian,” the “immigrant Balotelli” is the new symbol of his Italy team. Prandelli was impatient and answered, “He is not the symbol, the Azzurri shirt is the symbol and don’t call him an immigrant. He’s an Italian.”

The Balotelli story is well-known in Italy but less so outside. The 21-year-old has had a long, laden journey to this achievement and acclaim.

Read the rest of this story on theglobeandmail.com

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