5 Italy players to watch at the World Cup

MARIO BALOTELLI When Mario Balotelli gets his mind

When Mario Balotelli gets his mind in focus, there is often no stopping him. Italy has never really had a forward that combines so much physicality and skill — a player who can muscle by defenders to score goals or find the target with well-placed free kicks or penalties. Until he finally missed in September, Balotelli had converted all 26 penalty kick attempts in his professional career. But Balotelli has struggled to control his temper and is often subjected to racist taunts. The son of Ghanaian immigrants and raised by an Italian family, he shoulders the burden of representing a new and rapidly expanding class of Italians. (Credit: AP / Gregorio Borgia)

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When Italy won the 2006 World Cup, then-coach Marcello Lippi pointed to the group collective as his squad's strongpoint -- and the fact that each forward scored at least one goal over the seven matches attested to that theory. This year's squad, by contrast, is singularly led by forward Mario Balotelli, the volatile AC Milan forward with superstar potential.

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