World Cup news

Prandelli impressed by Balo temperament

March 27, 2013
By ESPN staff

Cesare Prandelli has praised the way Mario Balotelli kept his cool under difficult conditions during Italy's 2-0 World Cup qualifying victory in Malta and believes the temperamental striker can finally start to realise his potential.

Balotelli, 22, has been in fine form since joining AC Milan from Manchester City in January, scoring ten goals in nine games during that period for club and country.

And the Italy international hit a brace to inspire his country to victory on Tuesday, opening up a three-point gap on Bulgaria in Group B.

While Balotelli has had trouble controlling his temper in the past, he managed to rise above the taunting directed at him by Malta fans - something that impressed the Italy coach hugely.

"He just needs to get used to that kind of thing," Prandelli FIGC.it. "He has to stay strong and keep his cool when people are trying to wind him up, like he did tonight."

Balotelli's second strike followed a nervy moment for the Italy side after captain Gianluigi Buffon conceded a penalty, only to go on and deny Michael Mifsud from the spot.

"He did that at the perfect moment - like a captain should," Prandelli said of his goalkeeper.

Prandelli added: "We knew they wouldn't give us any space. We were too slow in building up moves and we had difficulty going forward even though we kept possession. There was a lack of intensity in the final third. There was far too much distance between the backline and the midfield.

"It seems absurd to say this but the strong wind here influenced our passing too. Nevertheless it was important that we won. I've seen two good outings with the great performance against Brazil and then these three points."

Meanwhile, Morgan De Sanctis announced his retirement from international football at the age of 36 on Tuesday. The Napoli goalkeeper made his Italy debut against Iceland in 2005 but has only managed five more caps since.

De Sanctis said: "The time has come for me to leave room for the newcomers. It's not going to be easy to leave this group, though, because it's full of great guys. Let's hope they go one step further than we did at the Euros.

"Behind Gigi [Buffon] there are [Salvatore] Sirigu, [Federico] Marchetti and other good goalkeepers who will have to wait a few more years, so we are in good hands. I told the guys my decision this morning and I talked to the coach last night. At 36 I've got a few shots left to take with my club."