Italy coach un­cer­tain about Balotelli

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS -

Tara Goul­bourne (right), mar­ket­ing and PR man­ager at Tas­tee Lim­ited, presents Shel­don Hol­ness (cen­tre), man­ager of Hum­ble Lion Foot­ball Club, and An­thony Pringle, tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor, with a cheque worth $350,000. ROME, Italy (AP): SIX GOALS in six French league matches were not enough to con­vince Italy coach Gian Piero Ven­tura to re­store Mario Balotelli to the na­tional team.

The of­ten-di­vi­sive striker also needs to con­vince Ven­tura that he has cleaned up his act – both on and off the pitch.

“It’s not due to tech­ni­cal rea­sons that Balotelli isn’t on the na­tional team,” Ven­tura said yes­ter­day. “He has great skills. No­body is de­bat­ing his tech­ni­cal abil­i­ties. Rather, it’s a thou­sand other fac­tors.”

Since trans­fer­ring on a free trans­fer from Liver­pool to Nice on dead­line day, Balotelli has helped the un­her­alded club to first place in France and has seven goals in eight matches in all com­pe­ti­tions.

“He’s been back in form for two months now, but you can’t think that in two months some­body has changed who they are,” Ven­tura added.

Af­ter scor­ing only one league goal in each of the past two sea­sons with Liver­pool and AC Milan, re­spec­tively, Balotelli never played for Italy un­der coach An­to­nio Conte.

His last ap­pear­ance for Italy came when the Az­zurri were elim­i­nated in the first round of the 2014 World Cup – where he was con­sid­ered a dis­trac­tion by sev­eral team-mates.

At 26 years old, Balotelli po­ten­tially has many more years as a top player.

Ven­tura said he will have a dis­cus­sion with Balotelli “to see if he has the de­sire to be a leader within the team”.

“There are an­other two and a half months to eval­u­ate,” the coach added, look­ing ahead to a pos­si­ble re­turn in 2017.

Mean­while, for­ward Graziano Pelle also re­mains ex­cluded af­ter re­fus­ing to shake Ven­tura’s hand fol­low­ing a sub­sti­tu­tion dur­ing a 1-1 draw with Spain last month.

“I thought it would be use­ful for him to have a pause to re­flect,” Ven­tura said of Pelle, who trans­ferred from Southamp­ton to Chi­nese club Shan­dong Luneng in July.

LEFT OUT

As for Se­bas­tian Giovinco, Ven­tura said the high-scor­ing for­ward for MLS club Toronto FC has been left out be­cause he “plays in a league that doesn’t count for much”.

Italy is train­ing for a World Cup qual­i­fier at Liecht­en­stein on Saturday and a friendly with Ger­many three days later in Milan.

Ven­tura plans to rely on the for­ward tan­dem of An­drea Belotti and Ciro Im­mo­bile – both of whom played un­der him at Torino.

Im­mo­bile has scored nine goals in 12 matches for Lazio this sea­son, while Belotti has eight in 10 for Torino.

“They’re two play­ers I don’t need to get to know. I know them per­fectly well since I coached them,” Ven­tura said. “They have a chance to take over the na­tional team.”

Mid­fielder Clau­dio Marchi­sio was also sent home yes­ter­day with an in­jured left leg, two days af­ter be­ing called back to the na­tional team af­ter six months out with a torn cru­ci­ate lig­a­ment, which forced him to miss the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship.

Ata­lanta mid­fielder Roberto Gagliar­dini and Genoa de­fender Ar­mando Izzo were called up af­ter Marchi­sio left.

Defenders Gior­gio Chiellini and An­drea Barza­gli are also out in­jured, with Ju­ven­tus an­nounc­ing yes­ter­day that Barza­gli will miss two months with a dis­lo­cated left shoul­der.

Italy is level on points with Group G leader Spain, one point ahead of Al­ba­nia and Israel, while Mace­do­nia and Liecht­en­stein are last with zero points.

BALOTELLI

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