Martedì, 25 Settembre 2018

Balotelli 'could make world's top five'


(By Denis Greenan).
Rome, March 22 - Mario Balotelli could become one of
the world's five top players, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said
after the young AC Milan striker upstaged Brazil ace Neymar with
a stunning equaliser and all-round impressive display in Italy's
2-2 friendly draw with Brazil in Geneva Thursday.
"He could become one of the top five players in the world,"
said coach Cesare Prandelli after the AC Milan striker's 25-yard
scorcher in the 57th minute pulled the Azzurri level after they
went 2-0 down in the first half.
"Balo played like a champion, now he just has to find
consistency," said the coach, who called the come-from-behind
draw against the five-time world champions "one of the best
matches since I became Italy manager (in 2010)".
The other goal for four-time World Cup winners Italy came
three minutes before Balotelli's, from Roma midfielder Daniele
De Rossi.
It had looked as though Italy would pay for their missed
opportunities when Brazil took a 2-0 lead at half-time thanks to
goals from Fred and Oscar.
Balotelli said Friday: "What a goal, I want to dedicate it
to a singer friend of mine".
He praised Neymar, frequently named among the world's best
players, saying "he's brilliant".
Asked what mark he would give himself for his performance,
the 22-year-old ex-Inter and Manchester City striker said "six
(out of 10) for the goal, because I missed too many chances in
front of goal".
He said he liked the 4-3-3 formation Italy employed in the
second half because it was the same Milan used.
Prandelli, whose side now face Malta in a World Cup
qualifier Tuesday, added "we have to get our energy back for the
Malta game".
Italy lead European World Cup qualifying group B with 10
points from four games, four points more than second-placed
Before the Brazil game, Prandelli and his players said they
were regarding it as a test for the Confederations Cup later
this year and hoping to improve their reputation for 'not
turning up' in friendlies.
Italy have lost only one competitive match under Prandelli,
the 4-0 defeat to Spain in the final of Euro 2012.
But their record in friendlies has continued to be poor,
losing seven out of the 13 non-competitive matches played under
him and winning just three.
Juve playmaker Andrea Pirlo had said there was no danger
Italy would take the friendly against Brazil in Geneva lightly.
Indeed, the midfielder who stood out at Euro 2012 said he
and his teammates were treating the game as a major test ahead
of next year's World Cup.
"You don't take on Brazil every day, it's not a normal
"It may turn out to be fundamental for our development and
to be able to understand where we are at in view of the
Confederations Cup (later this year) and the World Cup (in 2014
in Brazil)".
Prandelli said this week that he wants his side to take
this June's Confederations Cup as a serious test.
The Cup, which takes place the year before a World Cup in
the host nation and features the world champions and the
continental champions, is not considered a major tournament.
But Italy's failure at the 2009 Confederations Cup proved
to be a foretaste of the then-holder's embarrassing group-stage
exit at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
"Italy often do not play well in friendlies," added Pirlo.
"We are never our best (in them), but this time we'll try
to do well, in part thinking of the fans. This Italy team is
coming on and I think we are among the top 10 (in the world)".
Prandelli has rejuvenated the Azzurri since taking over and
got them to play an attractive attacking style that contrasts
with the nation's traditional defensive approach.
Pirlo is one of the few veterans from Italy's 2006 World
Cup-winning team still in the national team.
Italy, who have qualified for the Confederations Cup as
Euro 2012 runners-up because Spain already had a slot as they
are the world champs, are currently fifth in FIFA's world
ranking, while Brazil are a lowly 18th.
"They (Brazil) are the best national team in the world in
purely technical terms," Prandelli said.

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