Mario Balotelli out of Confederations Cup with thigh injury

Scott Heavey

Italy will have to make due without the injured Mario Balotelli.

Italy will be without Mario Balotelli for the remainder of the Confederations Cup after the striker with a thigh strain. On Sunday, Italy announced that Balotelli would miss the semifinal against Spain with the injury, but on Monday he left the team's training camp, having been ruled out for the tournament.

Without Balotelli, Italy will likely turn to Alberto Gilardino up top. Gilardino is plenty capable of playing as a lone striker, but he is nowhere near the physical specimen that Balotelli is. He won't be able to win as many balls as Balotelli, which isn't just important to bring the midfielders into the play, but also provides a valuable outlet to the Italy defense. That role, and Balotelli's contribution, has been doubly important in the Confederations Cup too, where the Azzurri have struggled to find a competent second striker to Balotelli that has heaped more responsibility on the enigmatic frontman.

If Italy are going to succeed without Balotelli, they will need some combination of Claudio Marchisio, Emanuele Ciaccherini, Sebastian Giovinco, Stephan El Shaarawy and Alessandro Diamanti to play well. All five, and the injured Alberto Aquilani, have all been given chances in the Confederations Cup and despite some uneven performances from some of them, Italy still scored eight goals in their three group stage matches. That was largely due to the wonderful play of Balotelli, but he is out and the attack he made click is going to have to find a way without him.

Cesare Prandelli said that he is "optimistic" that Andrea Pirlo could return from injury against Spain, while Riccardo Montolivo also looks like a good bet to play, giving Italy a chance without Balotelli against the world's top team.

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