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Wed Apr 23 21:37:04 SAST 2014

Prandelli tells Balotelli to play for the team

Sapa-AFP | 16 June, 2012 10:200 Comments
Italy v Croatia - Group C: UEFA EURO 2012
Mario Balotelli of Italy looks on during the UEFA EURO 2012 group C match between Italy and Croatia at The Municipal Stadium on June 14, 2012 in Poznan, Poland
Image by: Claudio Villa / Getty Images

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli had harsh words for star striker Mario Balotelli on Friday but insisted he still has faith in the errant Manchester City player.

For the second game in a row Prandelli hauled off the 21-year-old early in the second period of Thursday’s Euro 2012 Group C 1-1 draw with Croatia.

  Balotelli had performed much better than he did against Spain four days earlier but Prandelli explained that the youngster failed to heed his instructions in the second half.

  “I shouted myself hoarse for 15 minutes but I didn’t manage to correct his positioning,” moaned Prandelli.

  “He was coming towards the ball but then he didn’t hold onto it. Either you come for the ball and hold onto it or you go long.

  “If we have affection for this lad we have to tell him these things, the truth, and that’s what I do.”  Although Prandelli wasn’t happy with Balotelli’s contribution after half-time, he insisted he believes in the former Inter Milan forward, who is the son of Ghanaian immigrents.

  “If you want to become great you have to know how to deal with difficulty,” said Prandelli.

  “I’ll never abandon him. I played him from the start when the entire press corps wanted him benched.

  “No-one can say ’I’ in this team, we need courage, this is a good team.”  Balotelli has scored just once in 10 games for Italy and Prandelli was asked during Friday’s press conference how long the national team would have to wait for him to start helping the cause.

  “Three days (until the next match), we expect a great reaction from him.”  Prandelli says he will make three or four changes to his line up for the game with Ireland on Monday as he wants his team to be fresh.

  They have tired noticeably in their first two matches but Prandelli believes that has been due to a desire to hold onto what they had.

  “The drop in our physical condition wasn’t shocking but we dropped back 20-metres,” said the coach.

  “We have to keep playing football and not worry about the result. As long as we’re dominating we’re a real team but then we become afraid and start trying to defend the result.

  “That’s a mental issue rather than a physical one.”  There’s another mental issue that’s gripping the Italians, it’s the possibility of a “biscotto” between Spain and Croatia in their final Group C match.

  Eight years ago Italy crashed out of Euro 2004 in Portugal after Sweden and Denmark drew 2-2 in their final game, a result which suited both those sides as it ensured they progressed at Italy’s expense.

  The term biscotto, which means biscuit, refers to a tacit agreement between two parties at the expense of a third.

  It is believed to originate from horse racing and refer to a doped biscuit given to a horse, or it could come from the idea that a biscuit, or cake, be divided up equally without the need for anyone to fight over who gets the biggest slice.

  Either which way, Prandelli says he has no fears about a repeat biscotto sending his team home early from yet another Euros.

  “We must believe right to the end and not cultivate the policy of suspicion,” said Prandelli.

  “We need to win the game (against Ireland) and deserve to progress to the next round.

  “I think Spain will beat Croatia, for the last 10 years they’ve had a certain image and I don’t think they’re going to start speculating now.

  “We must not think about what happened eight years ago, we must not look for excuses.

  “Spain have always produced a spectacle and played well, everyone wants to emulate them, why would they think about a biscuit now?”

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