Balotelli was among the stars during the Azzurri’s surprise passage to the
Euro 2012 final this summer and, although manager Cesare Prandelli will
field an inexperienced team on Wednesday night, he made a point on Tuesday
of stressing the importance of the
Significantly, Prandelli also endorsed Balotelli’s decision to shun the summer
attention of Paris St-Germain and remain in the
“This is very important for his progress,” said Prandelli. “Mario Balotelli is
a player who has a lot of talent. Even though he is young, he will be very
important to the Italy team in the future. I hoped Mario would recover in
time to play against
Italy, of course, eliminated England in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 on penalties and, despite so dominating the game, there were generous words yesterday from Prandelli for the performance of Roy Hodgson’s team. “I have very good memories of the game because it was a high level technically and tactically from both teams,” he said.
The truth was that Italy were far superior technically, with Andrea Pirlo delivering a masterclass in central midfield. Italy then played even better in defeating 2-1 Germany in the semi-finals.
It is, then, surely only a quirk of the Fifa rankings that leaves them rated three places behind England in sixth.
Prandelli is now targeting a sustained challenge to win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and, with so many young players being given their chance, he regards tonight as a crucial stepping stone.
There are nine uncapped players in the squad, including teenagers Mattia De Sciglio, Stephan El Shaarawy and Mattia Perin. Of the team that eliminated England in Kiev in June, only Ignazio Abate, Federico Balzaretti and Daniele De Rossi could be involved on Wednesday.
“The idea is to plan the next two years and immediately see if these lads are up to proving themselves ready,” said Prandelli. “For that reason the match against England is very important.
"What I’m expecting is to continue the way we have been playing to get the results, but improving our finishing. That’s why I’m going to give most attention to the attack. I want to look at players who have different characteristics so I have options in the future.
“We want to continue down the path we forged at the European Championship, now that we’ve gained more credibility.”