Italy coach Cesare Prandelli says he toyed with the idea of dropping Mario Balotelli from his squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Armenia and Denmark after being left “hurt” by the Manchester City striker’s decision to schedule laser eye surgery during the last international break.
Balotelli was among six players recalled by Prandelli for the qualifying double-header after missing games against Malta and Bulgaria last month as he recovered from the procedure.
Prandelli felt it was unfortunate that Balotelli put his club commitments before those of his country, but admitted that – given the striker’s stunning form for the Azzurri at Euro 2012 – it would have been wrong to leave him out. “When he decided to undergo surgery just two weeks before his commitments to the national team, there was hurt,” Prandelli told a press conference. “I had some thoughts [about dropping him], but then thought of the games he has played for his country and I was comforted.”
Domenico Criscito, Alberto Gilardino, Andrea Ranocchia, Antonio Candreva and Stephan El Shaarawy were also welcomed back into the fold when Prandelli named his 27-man squad, but there was no place for Inter Milan striker Antonio Cassano or Udinese hitman Antonio Di Natale. “I don’t consider his or Di Natale’s cycles to be over,” Prandelli said. “I want to try out a few younger players. But they will be up for consideration again if they are in the right condition.”
Italy travel to Armenia for their third Group B qualifier this Friday, before facing Denmark at the San Siro in Milan next Tuesday.