The Manchester City boss has backed his talented striker despite him missing a host of chances before Italy's eventual penalty win over EnglandManchester City boss Roberto Mancini has stuck the boot in on Wayne Rooney after his England side's exit from Euro 2012 at the hands of Italy by claiming the 26-year-old was outshone by Mario Balotelli during the quarter-final clash.
Rooney was a peripheral figure as Roy Hodgson's side struggled to contain Italy in Sunday's quarter-final in Kiev, and Cesare Prandelli's outfit eventually prevailed on penalties after a 0-0 draw.
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And Mancini has hit back at those who have questioned Balotelli's part in the victory after missing a number of gilt-edged chances, saying that his City marksman outperformed Rooney.
"I think perhaps many are underestimating what [Balotelli] did," Mancini told the Corriere dello Sport. "He was always at the heart of the game, had five or six chances, and was a bit unlucky.
"But we want to compare him with Rooney, who we only noticed when it came to penalties. 'Super Mario' did much better, and he's a great striker we must support all the way."
The Premier League-winning manager went on to praise the play of Prandelli's side, who controlled much of the last-eight fixture on their way to a semi-final meeting with Germany.
"The Azzurri dominated almost the entire match, by far and away, as if they came down from another planet," he proclaimed. "In the second half and in extra time, they crushed England," he added.
"They took my breath away as I waited for the killer goal. That it did not come was only down to tiny details. Beyond Balotelli I saw a great Italy.
"Prandelli also made changes very well while Hodgson thought only to defend himself and had no effect. When [Antonio] Nocerino and [Alessandro] Diamanti came on, they gave a great boost."
Italy will now compete with Germany for a place in Sunday's final.