Balotelli: I'm more of a man than Peter Pan

The 21-year-old denied any reports of off-the-field or mental problems, insisting that the only reason he was 'worked up' before the Ireland game was because he had not scored
Italy forward Mario Balotelli has hit out at criticism of his attitude, stating that whether people are entertained or angered by him is up to them, and suggesting that he does not need to grow up.

The flamboyant striker scored in his side's final group game, a 2-0 win over Ireland, but it was his celebration that followed which made the headlines with the 21-year-old's angry shouts masked by team-mate Leonardo Bonucci who covered Balotelli's mouth with his hand. 

Italy ready for crunch clash
The Manchester City man's agent had been quoted recently as labelling the forward as a 'Peter Pan' character off the field, while other names in football have said that the Italian needs to grow up.

The former Inter player was not scheduled to speak to the media on Saturday but crashed Cesare Prandelli's press conference and denied any suggestions that he has been suffering psychologically.

"I think these two metaphors are for Mario the person, not Mario the footballer," he told reporters. "I think I am a man.

"I could be Peter Pan - as in some of my behaviour I’m quite free, but I certainly feel more of a man than a Peter Pan.

"The goal I scored against Ireland was important. Above all because I wanted to score this goal and I hadn't managed to get on the score sheet in the previous two games.

"The media suggested there was a mental block, but I just couldn't put the ball in the net. There was no mental block at all.

"Whether you are on the pitch for 90 minutes or for 20 minutes, you are always going to make mistakes.

"You always get criticism but that's ok because it helps you to improve."

The Azzurri now face England in the quarter-finals on Sunday. Balotelli revealed that he is looking forward to facing a number of his club-mates, however he assured fans he is still committed to getting the right result.

"I hope it'll be a good match," he continued. "I think it'll be fun to play against my [Manchester City] team-mates.

"They know me and I know them, I just hope it's going to be nice and fun. I want to win; even if they are my team-mates, I hope they are going to lose.

"Do I have a special celebration planned if I score against England? First I have to score. Then you’ll see what I do."

When asked if the match against the Three Lions is a perfect opportunity to prove his doubters wrong, the Italian insisted he does not need to prove anything, while suggesting he is not bothered what people's opinions of him are.

"Lucky for [Hart] that he knows two Balotellis," he stated.

"I don't think Mario the person needs to demonstrate this to anyone. Like all of my team-mates I want to put in a good performance, so whether you're entertained or angered by my performance is up to you.

"All the players at Man City are friends, all team-mate are friends of mine. Who do I fear the most? I don't fear anyone."

20/1 Mario Balotelli is 20/1 to be sent off against England with Paddy Power
Balotelli has occasionally lost his cool at times during his club career, and it has been suggested that when playing for Italy he seems agitated.

The player explained that as Euro 2012 is his first European tournament, it is normal to feel emotions, and argued that the only reason he seemed "worked up" was because he had not scored in the first two games.

"The first few games [were] very emotional, it was my first Euro Championships so I think it's very normal to have a reaction," he said.

"The only thing there might have been was because I hadn't scored a goal so that might be why I got worked up, but I wasn't angry. [There are] no problems with the squad or off the pitch."