Cesare Prandelli assures Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli over Italy future

 

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The Independent Football

Mario Balotelli has been assured he will play a major role in Italy's future although he has been ruled out of tonight's friendly international with England in Berne.

The Manchester City striker came of age for his country during Euro 2012, netting twice in the shock semi-final win over Germany.

He will miss the meeting with Roy Hodgson's side after contracting conjunctivitis but Italy coach Cesare Prandelli knows of his importance long term.

He said: "We were hoping Mario would recover in time to face England, but it wasn't to be.

"I want to give him a key role in the long term and I expect him to accept responsibility when I do."

Prandelli has challenged his players to build on the form shown during the Euro finals as he starts to build towards the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Prandelli has emulated Hodgson, in naming an unproven squad for the rematch of their Euro quarter-final which Italy won on penalties.

Italy eventually reached the final before losing 4-0 to Spain.

Prandelli said: "We're ready to start the new season with a lot of enthusiasm and we want to do well. I've seen in the eyes of my players that they want to get off to a good start.

"We want to continue down the path we forged at the European Championships, now that we've gained more credibility.

"The objective is to keep playing our game but with more finesse in the execution. We want to make an impact in the game at Berne, a team that knows exactly what to do, and when."

Prandelli wants his players to be more ruthless in front of goal and they spurned a host of chances against England before winning on penalties.

He said: "I want to see players with different characteristics who we can assess with the future in mind.

"The plan is to prepare for the next two years, starting from now, by working out which young players are ready to make the grade.

"That is the challenge against England, and it is a big one. We must raise the bar by enriching an already quality pool of players.

"What I expect is to continue down the path of getting results, but with more brilliance and conviction in the final third. To achieve this end we must focus on our attack."

England have only James Milner and Ashley Young available of the side beaten by Italy in Kiev while the Azzurri have included only three of the players on duty that evening.

PA

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