Prandelli almost left Balotelli out of Italy squad
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli was close to leaving Manchester
City striker Mario Balotelli out of his squad for upcoming 2014
World Cup qualifying matches.
Prandelli said Monday that he was annoyed Balotelli chose to
undergo eye surgery just before the last two qualifiers, ruling him
out of the matches against Bulgaria and Malta.
”I admit, I was upset about the fact that Balotelli chose to
have his eye operation when there were two international games,”
Prandelli said. ”I thought about it for a bit, but then I thought
of the games he has played for his country and I was comforted. It
will be yet another chance to see if he wants to be a
Italy plays in Armenia on Friday before entertaining Denmark in
Milan, four days later.
The Italy coach left out Antonio Cassano despite his solid start
to the season, but insists it is not the end of the Inter Milan
striker’s international career.
”In the last two years I won my bet on him when no-one thought
he could give us a hand,” Prandelli said. ”Now I want to see
something different. But it’s not the end of his Italy career.
”I just preferred to look at younger lads as I know perfectly
what Cassano can give us. I’ve made the same choice with (Antonio)
Di Natale, knowing that I could always call on him to resolve any
Despite his desire to focus on youth, Prandelli has recalled
Alberto Gilardino, who at 30 is the same age as Cassano.
”Alberto knows perfectly what is his role now, which is to be
the fifth or sixth striker,” Prandelli said. ”If I call up
Cassano it’s to play him from the start.”
Prandelli has also called up Stephan El Shaarawy after the
teenage striker’s impressive start to the season.
El Shaarawy made his debut in a friendly against England but
this is his first squad inclusion for a competitive international
El Shaarawy heads a group of young players that Prandelli has
been including in his squads since Italy’s loss to World Cup winner
Spain in the European Championship final.
”I’m focusing on a nice little group of them, without naming
any names so as not to put too much responsibility on them,”
Prandelli said. ”I spoke with (Spain coach Vicente) Del Bosque 20
days ago, and he also told me that after the World Cup he changed
50 percent of the players.
”They then went to the next European Championship and won
again. Renewing the team is the only possible route.”
Torino defender Angelo Ogbonna withdrew from the squad on Monday
afternoon after worsening problems with his prostate gland.
AC Milan defender Ignazio Abate failed to take part in training
and remains in bed with the flu, but is expected to recover for