Balotelli injures knee, doubtful for Ireland match

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KRAKOW, POLAND (AP) - Italy forward Mario Balotelli has injured his right knee in practice, and is questionable for the European Championship match with Ireland on Monday.

The Italian soccer federation says the striker has “a minor right knee problem.” He’ll be re-examined by a team doctor on Sunday.

Balotelli has been the target of reported racial abuse in matches against Croatia and Spain during Euro 2012. UEFA opened a case against the Croatian soccer association after reports that fans made monkey chants toward Balotelli.

The injury could open up a spot for Antonio Di Natale in the starting lineup.

Di Natale replaced Balotelli in the second half of Italy’s opening two matches, 1-1 draws with Spain and Croatia, and scored against Spain.

Italy needs to beat Ireland in its Group C finale and get help from Spain and Croatia to advance.

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