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Azzurri will not give up on Barzagli

ITALIAN defender Andrea Barzagli has added to Italy's mounting worries ahead of Euro 2012 by being ruled out of the group phase and possibly the whole tournament with a calf strain, the Azzurri team doctor said last night.

Striker Mario Balotelli also quit training early with what reports said was a knee or thigh problem which needed examining. The centre-back Barzagli suffered his injury in the 3-0 friendly defeat by Russia on Friday.

"We could change a player 24 hours before the Euros. But we will try to get him fit," the Italy team doctor, Enrico Castellacci, told Italian media a day before the squad flew to their Euro 2012 base in Krakow.

"We are confident he can recover but in any case he would not be available in the first phase."

The Internazionale defender Andrea Ranocchia, who was in the provisional squad, could be called up if Italy decide not to risk the Juventus defender Barzagli.

Italy's defeat by Russia, where slapstick defending was to blame for two of the goals, had led the head coach, Cesare Prandelli, to ponder switching to three at the back but Barzagli's problem changes the dynamic.

Prandelli has already had to do without the left-back Domenico Criscito after he was dropped when he was formally warned by police that he was under investigation for match-fixing.

'Torres key for Spain'

CHELSEA midfielder Oriol Romeu is backing his club colleague Fernando Torres to be an important player for Spain at the European Championship, despite enduring an indifferent season for the Champions League winners.

The former Liverpool hitman joined Chelsea in January 2011 for a record fee between English sides of £50million but scored just 11 goals in 48 appearances at club level this season.

Nonetheless, the Spanish Under-21 international midfielder reckons that Torres' experience and work rate could prove vital for the reigning world champions in Poland and Ukraine this summer.

"I think that Torres will be a very important player for the national team at the Euros because he is a player with great quality and experience and these characteristics are very important in a forward," said Romeu.