Italy beat Ireland 2-0 earlier today to advance to the knockout stage of Euro 2012, and it did so thanks in part to some late help from striker Mario Balotelli. Balotelli didn’t start today, and it’d been a bit of a rough tournament for him to date – he was a relative non-factor in Italy’s first two matches, endured racist chants during Italy’s match against Croatia, hurt his knee during training, and was benched for the start of the Ireland game.
And that’s about where everything turned. Balotelli was subbed in late today, and when he got a chance with his side protecting a 1-0 lead and mere minutes to go, it didn’t matter that he had an Irish defender draped all over him – he was making the most of that chance:
And here it is in gif form, via SB Nation:
It wasn’t long ago that Italy was winning the World Cup. It might be asking a bit too much for them to threaten at the Euro championships this year, but if Balotelli finds that kind of form consistently, the Italians might be back at that level sooner rather than later.