World Cup qualifying news

Milan strike duo anchors Italy roster

May 16, 2013
By Associated Press

ROME -- Mario Balotelli and AC Milan strike partner Stephan El Shaarawy headline Italy's squad for upcoming matches against San Marino and the Czech Republic, while Antonio Cassano remained left out.

The Azzurri will host San Marino in a friendly in Bologna on May 31 then visit the Czechs in Prague on June 7 for a World Cup qualifier.

In Group B of European qualifying, Italy holds a three-point lead over Bulgaria. The Czechs are next, five points behind Italy.

Tiny San Marino is last in Group H, with no goals scored and 29 conceded.

The other forwards called up Thursday were Alessandro Diamanti and Alberto Gilardino of Bologna, Sebastian Giovinco of Juventus and Pablo Osvaldo of Roma.

Balotelli and El Shaarawy have scored a combined 27 goals in Serie A this season, while Cassano has struggled at Inter and broke his hand in training Wednesday.

Several players were left out for Italy's under-21 squad, which will play the European Championship in Israel next month, including Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti, Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne and Roma forwards Mattia Destro and Alessandro Florenzi.

Goalkeeper Michael Agazzi and forward Marco Sau, who both play for Cagliari, and Atalanta midfielder Giacomo Bonaventura, received their first call-ups in the 31-player list.

Coach Cesare Prandelli must trim the squad to 23 players for the Confederations Cup by June 3.

The roster:

Goalkeepers: Michael Agazzi (Cagliari), Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Federico Marchetti (Lazio), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris Saint-Germain).

Defenders: Ignazio Abate (AC Milan), Luca Antonelli (Genoa), Davide Astori (Cagliari), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Mattia De Sciglio (AC Milan), Christian Maggio (Napoli), Angelo Ogbonna (Torino), Andrea Ranocchia (Inter Milan).

Midfielders: Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina), Giacomo Bonaventura (Atalanta), Antonio Candreva (Lazio), Alessio Cerci (Torino), Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Emanuele Giaccherini (Juventus), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Riccardo Montolivo (AC Milan), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus), Andrea Poli (Sampdoria).

Forwards: Mario Balotelli (AC Milan), Stephan El Shaarawy (AC Milan), Alessandro Diamanti (Bologna), Alberto Gilardino (Bologna), Sebastian Giovinco (Juventus), Pablo Osvaldo (Roma), Marco Sau (Cagliari).