Balotelli called up for Ivorian clash


ROME, August 7 – Italy coach Cesare Prandelli called up newcomers Mario Balotelli and Brazilian-born Amauri on Friday for a friendly against Ivory Coast, the team's first match since their disastrous World Cup campaign.

Sampdoria striker Antonio Cassano also returns to the squad for the first time since Euro 2008.

Prandelli’s predecessor Marcello Lippi snubbed Inter’s Balotelli as well as Cassano for the World Cup in South Africa and many observers blamed the dismal showing on his decision to stick with experienced but ageing players.

Juventus striker Amauri – who only recently obtained an Italian passport – is one of seven new names for the friendly against Ivory Coast next Monday in London.

Prandelli has named only nine of the players called up by Lippi, including goalkeeper Federico Marchetti, midfielders Riccardo Montolivo and Daniele De Rossi and forward Fabio Quagliarella.

Reigning champions Italy were embarrassingly bundled out of the World Cup in the first round following a shock 3-2 defeat to Slovakia that left them at the bottom of what had looked like a fairly easy group, including Paraguay and rank outsiders New Zealand.

After the Ivory Coast game, Italy will play Estonia on September 3 and the Faroe Islands on September 7 in qualifying matches for the Euro 2012 championships in Poland and Ukraine.

Formerly a Juventus midfielder, Prandelli spent five years coaching Fiorentina, twice taking them into the Champions League, having previously coached Parma and AS Roma.

Italy squad:

Goalkeepers: Federico Marchetti (Cagliari), Salvatore Sirigu (Palermo), Emiliano Viviano (Bologna)

Defenders: Luca Antonini (AC Milan), Davide Astori (Cagliari), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Mattia Cassani (Palermo), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Stefano Lucchini (Sampdoria), Christian Molinaro (Stuttgart), Marco Motta (Juventus)

Midfielders: Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Andrea Lazzari (Cagliari), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Riccardo Montolivo (Fiorentina), Angelo Palombo (Sampdoria), Simone Pepe (Juventus)

Attackers: Amauri (Juventus), Mario Balotelli (Inter), Marco Borriello (Milan), Antonio Cassano (Sampdoria), Fabio Quagliarella (Napoli), Giuseppe Rossi (Villarreal/ESP)