Manchester City’s Balotelli has spent the last two seasons terrorising defences — and occasionally youth team players and bathrooms — in England and will now come up against team-mates and regular foes alike for his homeland.
The often controversial star, who attracted negative headlines for pranks such as throwing darts at City youth team players and setting fire to his bathroom when letting off fireworks inside his home, says his goal against Ireland means he has already answered his critics.
“I don’t have to show anything to anyone, not to England, not to Italy and not to anyone,” he said.
“I’m not a Super Mario or a Stupid Mario, I’m just Mario and those who know me, know who I (really) am.
“It was important for me to score because I had been trying to do that in the previous two games but hadn’t managed it.
“But it’s not a case of the handbrake being off now, I scored a goal and that can happen.”
Balotelli’s agent Mino Raiola previously described him as Peter Pan while Italy team-mate Daniele De Rossi said the 21-year-old was becoming a man and taking responsibility for himself, a concept summed up in the Italian word ometto (little man).
Asked which description was better suited to him, Balotelli plumped for the fairytale.
“I think this is a metaphor for me as a person not a player. I am a man,” he said.
“I think he (Raiola) said Peter Pan because he wanted to be nice and maybe Peter Pan is closer because I’m free.”
It will be the first time Balotelli plays against his Man City team-mates in an Italy shirt and the temperamental star says he is looking forward to it, but he intends to heap misery on the likes of Joe Hart, Joleon Lescott and James Milner.
“I hope it’s going to be a good match and I think it will be fun to play against my team-mates,” he added.
“They know me and I know them, I just hope it’s going to be nice and fun. I don’t expect anything, I hope we win because I want to win and even though they’re team-mates, I hope they lose.”
The Italian press seem to believe Balotelli will regain his place in the side from Antonio Di Natale, who replaced him for the 2-0 win over Ireland in the final Group C match.
Coach Cesare Prandelli wouldn’t reveal his starting line-up and claimed even the players will only find out an hour before kick-off.
“I would expect from Mario the same thing as I would expect from all the others and that’s to be ready.
“Whether they play 20 minutes, 40 minutes or the whole match I want them to be thinking only about this match.
“They don’t even know if they will play or not and maybe this is the first time I have left them all thinking they could play.”
While traditionally England are known for their passion and commitment, Prandelli has been more impressed with their tactical alignment under Roy Hodgson, who coached in Italy on three separate occasions.
“We’re prepared, we’ve studied England and discovered that they’re one of the most organised European teams, more so than others who have this reputation.
“They average 38-39 metres between the lines (the distance from defenders to attackers) so we’ll have to break up their rhythm.
“We’ll have to match their intensity but I’m convinced that if we can play with tempo then we can play a great match.”