No Royal Kisses For Balotelli As Italy Draw A Blank

by
Reuters
There will be no kisses from Britain's Queen Elizabeth for Italy striker Mario Balotelli after his team wilted in the Brazilian heat against Costa Rica and slumped to a 1-0 defeat.

There will be no kisses from Britain's Queen Elizabeth for Italy striker Mario Balotelli after his team wilted in the Brazilian heat against Costa Rica and slumped to a 1-0 defeat.

Having already lost to the Italians, England needed them to win against Costa Rica to have any chance of making the knockout stages, and Balotelli seized the opportunity to make mischief.

"If we beat Costa Rica I want a kiss, obviously on the cheek, from the UK Queen," Balotelli had tweeted before Friday's game, but aside from a couple of chances he did precious little to warrant a display of affection from the monarch.

Superbly marshalled by Costa Rica's unheralded Columbus Crew defender Giancarlo Gonzalez, Balotelli got in behind the defence twice in quick succession in the first half.

He had one shot parried by Keylor Navas and lobbed another effort wide of goal with the Costa Rican keeper stranded.

But in the second half the striker created nothing of note as the Central Americans hung on for a famous victory thanks to Bryan Ruiz's headed goal a minute before the break.

The 23-year-old Balotelli had been similarly anonymous for large parts of Italy's opening Group D game against England, but at least he popped up to head the winner in a 2-1 victory.

INEFFECTIVE PERFORMANCE

Italy manager Cesare Prandelli was left to rue his striker's ineffective performance, saying: "Mario played well in the first half. He had two chances and if he had scored then the game would have been different."

Balotelli was not alone with his below-par performance as most of his team mates failed to impress the Italian fans on a hot and humid afternoon at the Pernambuco arena in Recife.

Having faced England in muggy conditions in Manaus, the 1pm local kickoff time, baking sunshine and a committed Costa Rica side provided another tough physical test for the Italians.

Despite Balotelli's undoubted pace and power the Costa Ricans chose to push up the pitch and leave space behind their five-man backline for him to run into, instead concentrating on closing off the supply lines to the striker.

Costa Rica's midfield also stopped Daniele De Rossi and Andrea Pirlo from picking them apart with their passing game, and the pair barely created a chance of note for Balotelli and his attacking team mates in the second half.

The narrow win was enough to guarantee qualification for the knockout stages for Costa Rica, with Italy needing at least a draw in their final group game against Uruguay to advance.

As yet, Balotelli's Twitter account is silent on who the object of his affections should be if they reach the last 16.