Serie A Winners and Losers of World Football's International Break

Theo Rowley@@LeRowleyContributor IMarch 27, 2013

With three goals in Italy's two games, Mario Balotelli transferred his prolific domestic form to the international stage
With three goals in Italy's two games, Mario Balotelli transferred his prolific domestic form to the international stageClaudio Villa/Getty Images

As the latest sporadic installment of international football fades away, players return to their clubs recovering from individual performances ranging the whole spectrum. 

There will be league teams who can profit from their players having delivered morale-boosting displays. And then there will be managers who may have to lend a sympathetic ear to their charges who may have had games to forget.

Untroubled by further international fixtures between here and June, league teams are able to march on toward the finishing line.

The cataclysmic build-up which was mounting so fervently in Serie A can now explode to fruition.

But out of those tussling for the title, engaged in Europe or resisting relegation—not to mention the melees in mid-table—which players excelled for their country, and which have work to do if they wish to merit further call-ups?

Beginning with the Azzurri, one need not look any further than Mario Balotelli. Since signing for AC Milan from Manchester City in January, his star has continually ascended.

With Daniele De Rossi scoring the first, Balotelli followed his captain's example to bag the quasi-important equaliser in their 2-2 draw against Brazil in last Friday's friendly, as the Samba boys touched down in Geneva for the latest part in their commercial world tour.

Balotelli then followed that up with both goals in Italy's 2-0 win against Malta on Tuesday night.

Whilst there is room to dispute the gravitas of those two games, the fact he has now scored 10 goals in his last nine outings for club and country is impressive form.

If this impressive vein of scoring can continue, AC Milan may still overtake Napoli to finish second and gain automatic qualification to the Champions League.

Another player who can report back to the Rossoneri with his stock high is Mattia De Sciglio. Aged just 20, the defender has started 20 games this season for the Red and Blacks, playing a pivotal part in leaking the fewest home goals of any Serie A team.

Making his debut against Brazil, an assured performance throughout the 90 minutes saw him maintain his place in the starting lineup against Malta.

Apart from conceding two goals in quick succession against the Selecao, he played with a confidence that surpassed his years.

Another precocious youngster who has, understandably, caught the eye with consistently high league performances is Paul Pogba of Juventus

With Bianconeri nine points clear at the summit, the French youngster has been a revelation since controversially signing from Manchester United last summer. 

Rangy, pacy and athletic, the comparisons to his compatriot Patrick Vieira were inevitable. But his two goals against Udinese in January—with the first being an impressive delicate chip—also demonstrated his ability to find the net.

Under the stewardship of former Juve boss Didier Deschamps, Les Bleus appear to be emerging from a spell of uncertainty which has plagued them since the debacle of their in-fighting at the 2010 World Cup.

Pogba attracted the plaudits with his classy performance in Friday's 3-1 win against Georgia: dominant in midfield, he played like a man much older than his actual 20 years of age.

However, things turned sour in the all-important game against Spain on Tuesday night.

Looking to end La Furia Roja's unbeaten run of 50 World Cup qualifiers—a spell which dates back to 2003—this game had magnitude, with the winners all but certain to automatically qualify.

It was unfortunate then, that Pogba collected his second yellow card of the evening 12 minutes before the final whistle.

After Pedro's goal in the 58th minute, France had looked like clawing back an equaliser. Pogba's dismissal all but put paid to that, with the world and double European champions holding on to win 1-0.

Whilst Pogba will inevitably learn to curb his game as to eradicate such naive mistakes, one player who is quickly becoming synonymous with rash tackles is Hernanes.

Famed for being a tenacious midfielder, the Lazio player was lucky to avoid being sent off in both of Brazil's friendly games, neither of which they won.

On Friday night, during the 2-2 draw with Italy, the 27-year-old tangled with Balotelli on numerous occasions. One such altercation almost saw the two almost come to blows.

Whilst Balotelli is not famed for his cool head, his angst was justified on this occasion. Hernanes roared around the pitch, playing with a ferocity which could have seen him sent off.

Several days later, this was again the case, apart from Russia were the opponents. Booked in the 70th minute for a careless lunge on Andrei Yuschenko, the Lazio boss Vladimir Petkovic will hope he shows more care when attempting to assuage his team's faltering league form.

Honourable mention also goes to Inter Milan's Mateo Kovacic who, whilst finding his chances with the Nerazzurri limited to three appearances, gained his first two caps for his native Croatia

Starting in the 2-0 home win against Serbia, he then played the last half an hour of their away match to Wales. With his team overcoming an early Gareth Bale goal, Kovacic played alongside Luka Modric to contribute towards an eventual 2-1 win.


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