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Balotelli makes no impact in final loss to Spain
By ANDREW DAMPF
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) Faced with his best scoring chance, Mario Balotelli never even touched the ball.
That's how little of an impact Italy's most talented striker had on Sunday's European Championship final.
Spain did such a great job of shutting down Italy's attack in a 4-0 rout that Balotelli rarely even got the ball in a scoring position.
At the final whistle, Balotelli stormed off the pitch in frustration - shoving aside a team official who attempted to block his path to the changing room, as coach Cesare Prandelli screamed at him to turn around.
Balotelli eventually came back out and accepted his runner-up medal, then dropped to the pitch where he was consoled by Prandelli.
"I told him he has to accept losses, that these are experiences from which you can take strength for the next opportunities," Prandelli said. "You need to know how to accept these things. That's sport. Many players have lost and suffered, but it's all over now."
Balotelli's best chance came in the 27th minute, but Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas pushed Federico Balzaretti's cross away just as the 21-year-old striker was lining up a header from close range.
In the 39th, Balotelli finished off an exchange with Riccardo Montolivo by blasting a 30-meter (yard) effort far above the target.
It was a far cry from the Balotelli who dominated with two spectacular goals in Italy's 2-0 semifinal win over Germany a few days earlier.
Balotelli couldn't even match his mixed performance in the Group C opener against Spain, when he wasted several chances - most notably slowing down just enough to let Sergio Ramos catch up and grab the ball on one opportunity.
Still, Balotelli ended the tournament with three goals, level with five other players for the competition lead - and newfound confidence for the future.
Updated July 1, 2012