Mario Balotelli has announced that the 2014 World Cup in Brazil will be the tournament where he will leave his mark on international stage.
In our new Golden Boot Contender feature Soccer Laduma looks at the players to compete for the Golden Boot at the World Cup in Brazil. Every Tuesday, over the next nine weeks, we will introduce one potential top scorer, who could lead his country far into the later stages of the tournament.
Balotelli is experiencing an average season with AC Milan. While his club struggles to reach the upper half of the table, the 23-year-old has scored 13 goals.
He made his national team debut in Italy's first match after the 2010 World Cup and has scored 12 goals in 29 appearances since.
The outspoken forward was Italy’s best striker in their World Cup qualification, scoring five goals but it was the semi-final against at the EURO 2012 where he proved what he is capable of.
Whilst he had been dropped to the bench after two disappointing opening matches at the competition, he scored his first international goal at a major tournament against Republic of Ireland.
His big moment came in the semi-final when he scored twice in the first 40 minutes against Germany to give his country a 2-0 lead over the tournament favourites. Italy won the game 2-1 and progressed to the final where they met Spain.
However, Balotelli failed to repeat his performace from the semi-final and could not prevent the 4-0 thrashing by the World Cup holders.
At the 2013 Confederations Cup, he scored in Italy’s first two victories over Mexico and Japan, but couldn’t impact their 4-2 defeat to hosts Brazil in their final group match. Balotelli suffered a thigh injury prior to the semi-final which kept him out of the rest of the competition.
The AC Milan forward himself is confident that he can lead Italy to a successful World Cup campaign in Brazil and far past the group stage with Uruguay, England and Costa Rica.
"Brazil is a perfect time for me to establish myself as number one striker in the world," Balotell recently told The Sun.
"The World Cup is where I want to make my mark. The best players always perform on the biggest stages."
Italy are well-known to be strong at international tournaments and if they were to challenge for their fifth World Cup title in Brazil, Balotelli would have to show his brilliance on a more regular basis.
Do you believe Mario Balotelli can be one of the Golden Boot contenders in Brazil? Have your say in the comment section below.