Mario Balotelli came off the bench to score a 76th-minute equalizer for Italy and salvage a 2-2 draw against Armenia. Though the match was ultimately meaningless for Italy since they have already qualified for Brazil, Balotelli's goal marked yet another instance of the 23-year-old overcoming intense scrutiny and constant criticism to score goals when they're needed.
The latest round of Balotelli controversies began with his selection for international duty even though he was given a three-match ban for verbally abusing the referee in Milan's loss to Napoli last month. That was followed by an attempt to manufacture outrage when he shoved a camera that was being jammed in his ear and finally by media suggestions that he needs to be a better anti-mafia role model that resulted in an MP calling him an "imbecile."
That carried on right until kickoff against Armenia with Balotelli starting on the bench. Armenia stunned Italy by scoring in the fifth minute, but six minutes after they took a second lead in the 70th minute, Andrea Pirlo connected with Balotelli with an excellent pass that Balotelli expertly finished. He didn't celebrate. He just picked up the ball and carried on the with the match.
After the final whistle, Balotelli didn't stop to chat with the press in the mixed zone. He said, "You speak bad of me, I score goals." And he kept on walking. That's how you celebrate a goal.
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- Mario Balotelli