Italy striker Mario Balotelli must not be overlooked for England clash, says Roberto Mancini
ROBERTO Mancini has told Italy coach Cesare Prandelli that he cannot afford to overlook Mario Balotelli in Sunday’s Euro 2012 quarter-final against England.
The Manchester City manager, currently on holiday in Italy, claims that the Italian influence of Fabio Capello and new manager Roy Hodgson has turned England into fearsome Euro 2012 opponents for Italy when they meet on Kiev this weekend.
But with debate raging in Italy over the contribution of Balotelli and his likely involvement against England, Mancini insists that he deserves to start the game.
Balotelli, dropped to the bench for Monday’s Group C clash against the Republic of Ireland in Poznan, is battling with Antonio Di Natale for a place in the starting line-up on Sunday.
Mancini claims that there should be no argument over the 21-year-old’s place in the team, however.
Speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport, Mancini said: "Balotelli is the strongest striker of Italy and he has to play. No one else could give England the same problem.
“Prandelli is doing a terrific work but he has to rely on Mario. He is too important and you could not leave him on the bench"
Italy will tackle England for a place in the semi-finals after Hodgson’s team emerged as winners of Group D following victories against Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine.
Despite the upheaval caused by Capello’s resignation earlier this year, England have appeared refreshed under the new management of former Inter Milan coach Hodgson.
But Mancini insists that Capello still deserves credit for the influence he has had on this England team
"England has to thank Capello,” Mancini said. “I've seen them playing and I recognize his organization.
"I understand that this England play in a way that could seem boring, but at this point of the season, every player is tired and from this match the team who score first could win with a high percentage.
“So Hodgson needed to work on the defence and improve this part of the game.
“He is smart because, in this short time, a revolution would not work. He follows the work of Capello and, at the end of the day, he is an English-Italian coach"
With Capello claiming that Wayne Rooney struggled with England, however, Mancini claimed that the Manchester United forward has no such problems understanding the game itself.
“I heard someone (Rooney) had language problems with him (Capello) but it is a nonsense.” Mancini said. “Football has a universal language."