Mario Balotelli‘s long-awaited return to the Italian national team was punctuated with an exclamation mark, but came to an early end as the striker was forced off with an injury.
In Roberto Mancini’s first match in charge of the Italian national team, he brought back the mercurial Nice striker who has turned his club career around. He earned the start in Monday’s friendly against Saudi Arabia, and would you know it, Balotelli scored in his 14th career international goal in his 34th cap.
The 27-year-old put Italy 1-0 up in the 21st minute when he skillfully cut between three defenders and sliced a shot that threaded the needle into the lower left corner.
Unfortunately, things came to an earlier end than expected when he was forced off with a muscular issue in the early stages of the second half.
Still, Balotelli’s return will give hope to Italy fans who have seen their team disappointingly miss the World Cup this summer. Later in the second half, Andrea Belotti scored the winning goal as Italy finished the match 2-1 winners. Gianluigi Donnarumma manned the goal in place of the retired (for now) Gianluigi Buffon.