Wayne Rooney (L) and Mario Balotelli
Fireworks are expected in Sunday’s Euro 2012 quarter-final match between England and Italy, especially because two of football’s most decisive but combustible characters - Wayne Rooney and Mario Balotelli - would share the pitch, writes Demola Ojo
For those who believe genius and madness go hand-in-hand, Wayne Rooney and Mario Balotelli supply ammunition. Both players have a lot more in common than the fact that they both play for Manchester clubs.
They are both immensely talented and their particular countries would be looking to them to help nick a Euro 2012 semi-final spot at the expense of the other. It is one more reason why Sunday’s contest between these nations with a rich footballing history is going to be both enthralling and unpredictable.
You can also argue that it’s an indictment of the paucity of talent (relatively speaking) in both camps that high stakes like today’s match rest on the shoulders of footballers that have a history of losing their cool, sometimes for no apparent reason. Truth is, it is not just the maturity of both players that has been questioned; their sanity too could plausible be a debatable topic.
For example, Wayne Rooney and England were coasting towards qualification for this competition in their final qualifier against Montenegro when Rooney inexplicably got himself sent off for kicking an opponent (Dzudovic) from behind.
It got him three-match ban that was later reduced to two. Hence he missed England’s first two qualifiers, before turning out match winner in the last group match; a 1-0 victory over co-hosts Ukraine.
Bolotelli’s case is almost the reverse of Rooney’s. Despite participating sparingly in Italy’s qualifying campaign, he started the first two matches of Italy’s campaign. His subpar performances meant he was relegated for the third.
He came off the bench in that match against Ireland though and netted the winner. He subsequently directed a tirade in the general direction of the bench, presumably voicing his ire for being dropped.
Luckily, a teammate (Bonucci) put a hand over Balotelli’s mouth to prevent him from doing more damage.
The above cases are just the most recent of incidents involving these two who have a reputation blowing their tops at the slightest provocation.
To top it up, Balotelli came out to reveal earlier this year, that he had a fling with a hooker that was a subject of a scandal with Rooney.
A little more of each player’s career – with the histrionics - is chronicled below, just so you have one more reason not to miss what already promises to be a spicy affair.
Wayne Rooney, 26, made his senior international debut in 2003 becoming the youngest player to represent England (a record later broken by Theo Walcott). He is England’s youngest ever goalscorer. He played at UEFA Euro 2004 and scored four goals, briefly becoming the competition’s youngest goalscorer. Rooney featured at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups and is widely regarded as his country’s best player.
He has won the England Player of the Year award twice, in 2008 and 2009. As of June 2012, he has won 75 international caps and scored 29 goals. Along with David Beckham, Rooney is the most red carded player for England, having been sent off twice.
Rooney has won the ‘Goal of the Season’ award by the BBC’s Match of the Day poll on three occasions, with his bicycle kick against rivals Manchester City winning the ‘Premier League Goal of the 20 Seasons’ award.
In September 2005, Rooney was sent off in a Champions League clash with Villarreal of Spain (which ended in a goalless draw) for sarcastically clapping the referee who had booked him for a foul on an opponent. Rooney was again sent off in an Amsterdam Tournament match against Porto in August 2006 after hitting then Porto defender Pepe with an elbow.
Rooney was once more, red-carded in the quarter-final of the 2006 World Cup in Germany for stamping on Portugal defender Ricardo Carvalho as both attempted to gain possession of the ball, an incident that occurred right in front of referee. Rooney’s Manchester United teammate Cristiano Ronaldo openly protested his actions, and was in turn shoved by Rooney.
Balotelli, earned his first cap for the Italian national team on 10 August 2010 in a friendly match against the Côte d’Ivoire, becoming one of the first black players to play for the Italian national football team.
In November 2008 Balotelli became the youngest Inter player (at 18 years and 85 days) to score in the Champions League when he scored a goal in a 3–3 draw against Cypriot side Anorthosis Famagusta, beating the previous record set by Obafemi Martins.
He caused controversy in the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona on 20 April 2010 as he threw his jersey on the ground after the final whistle, in response to Inter fans who had booed him for his poor performance.
He transferred to Manchester City in the summer of 2010. Balotelli scored his first and second Premier League goals on 7 November, 2010 in a 2–0 away win to West Brom.
In the same game Balotelli received a red card for violent conduct as the result of a clash with Youssuf Mulumbu.
In December of that year, Balotelli won the Golden Boy Award, saying that only one of the past winners was slightly better than he was – Lionel Messi.
He also claimed not to know of Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere, the player he narrowly beat to the award.
Balotelli still had disciplinary problems at City and in March 2011, he was sent off in the second-leg of Manchester City’s Europa League draw with Dynamo Kiev. In November of the same year, Balotelli came on as a 65th minute substitute against Liverpool and was sent off after receiving two yellow cards.
By April, Balotelli had received his fourth red card of the season, after receiving his second yellow card during the match for a tackle against Bacary Sagna during City’s 1–0 loss to Arsenal. For this red card and a charge of violent conduct in the same match for a tackle against Arsenal’s Alex Song, Balotelli faced a nine match suspension.
However, one of the match officials saw the Song challenge and no action was taken, and according to FA regulations, no retrospective action can be taken if any of the match officials see the offense in question.