Mario Balotelli sent home from Brazil with injury, tournament 60 percent less interesting

Brooks Peck
Dirty Tackle

Mario Balotelli has been sent home from the Confederations Cup with a thigh injury ahead of Italy's semifinal revenge match against Spain and suddenly the heavily protested tournament doesn't seem worth playing anymore. Balotelli had already been ruled out of Italy's attempt to improve on their 4-0 loss to Spain in the Euro 2012 final, so manager Cesare Prandelli decided to send him home so as not to risk further damage to his thigh or anything else that could be damaged by an unoccupied Mario Balotelli.

Building on his three-goal performance at Euro 2012, Balotelli was a driving force in Italy's success at this tournament as well. He scored twice in the group stage, include the winner against Mexico. He also set up Emanuele Giaccherini's goal against Brazil with an absolutely brilliant pass (which can be seen here).

Though the tournament comes to a disappointing and premature end for Balotelli, it was still quite productive both on and off the pitch. While his teammates were forbidden from leaving their hotel amidst security concerns related to the protests throughout Brazil, Balotelli was out doing charity work. He also made a new friend...

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