Balotelli hints at new Italy but Africans score on style

Italy 0 Ivory Coast 1

His compatriots came here in search of temporary refuge, a sanctuary from the wrath of a nation. For Mario Balotelli, however, this may prove the beginning of a more lasting asylum.

That, admittedly, is a solution this fractious, formidable young talent has often been recommended in its least complimentary sense. The idea is that his debut for Italy here last night will prove only the first of many appearances on Premier League grounds this season. If that is so, then Roberto Mancini must somehow contrive a filial kinship amid the febrile competition for places at Manchester City – where those already signed this summer include Yaya Touré, who lined up against him as the captain of Ivory Coast.

And it was another potential team-mate, Kolo Touré, who effectively ended his evening with the only goal after 55 minutes. Within five minutes Balotelli had been replaced, having shown only glimpses of what makes Mancini insist he is worth all the hassle – such wit, harnessed to such brawn, like some flighty, unbroken young colt. He did go close with a free-kick in the opening minutes, but overall proved excusably short of fitness.

Balotelli had been introduced to the British climate by an evening of drizzle in east London, and if the District Line conveyed an unusual match-day percentage of designer jeans and spectacles towards the Boleyn Ground, and just 11,176 souls, he will not have been deceived that this was just some gaudy, pre-season exhibition.

Never mind Manchester City. First and foremost, Balotelli arrived as the symbol of a new beginning for the Azzurri, whose ignominy in South Africa – as holders, they finished bottom of their group – surpassed that of England.

And by starting not just with Balotelli, but with Antonio Cassano and Amauri, Cesare Prandelli made an overt break from the disgraced squad of Marcello Lippi. The Italians, he implied, have relied too long on bolting their own door. It was time to bring along a set of keys as well. The new regime has even seduced Roberto Baggio, who has been hunting boar in Argentina since retiring in 2004, as technical director.

That is what last night was supposed to be about, but this proved a staccato performance. Marco Motta hit the post just after the interval, but half-a-dozen Italian substitutions interrupted some decorative intentions and instead it was one of Africa's most flamboyant teams that proved better able to shed their own World Cup disappointment.

But Prandelli had made his biggest statement before the kick-off. At Internazionale, Balotelli was too literally outrageous a talent even for Jose Mourinho to bring to heel. And Cassano was likewise ostracised as too delinquent by Lippi. Amauri, meanwhile, represents another kind of outsider, naturalised only in the spring after his long exile from Brazil. By combining Amauri with Balotelli, Prandelli has sought to emulate the new Germans.

By the end, Prandelli had replaced all three. Cassano had made the most auspicuous contribution – but you long to see more of Fabio Quagliarella, author of the tournament's most gorgeous goal just moments before his tears provided the abiding image of Italy's World Cup exit.

He is effectively in direct competition with Balotelli, for whom Prandelli calls this the beginning of a long journey. In exhorting his men that "we must take risks, overcome our fears", he has been using the same sort of formula as his compatriot at Wembley tonight. And if deeds did not yet match his words last night, the idea is example enough.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Floyd Mayweather will relinquish his five world titles after beating Manny Pacquiao
boxing
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
News
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
people
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living