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Soccer: Balotelli 'can't take Italy place for granted'

Only Buffon sure of slot, says Prandelli

12 March, 18:02
Soccer: Balotelli 'can't take Italy place for granted' (see related story on AC Milan) (ANSA) - Rome, March 12 - Italy coach Cesare Prandelli on Wednesday warned AC Milan forward Mario Balotelli that he cannot be certain of his Azzurri place, ahead of this summer's World Cup in Brazil.

"I haven't decided my 23-man squad for the World Cup. The only guaranteed starter for me is (Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi) Buffon," Prandelli said referring to his captain.

"For all the others, Balotelli included, I have to assess their physical fitness and state of mind".

In the past Prandelli has repeatedly given message of support for Balotelli, who's career has been dogged by episodes of indiscipline, rows with coaches and match officials and some bizarre off-field incidents.

The 23-year-old is not having the best of seasons, even though his total of 10 goals in Serie A for a struggling Milan side is respectable. He failed to make an impact in Milan's 4-1 defeat to Atletico Madrid on Tuesday, a loss that saw them exit the Champions League at the last-16 stage.

Prandelli also deflated speculation that he might recall 31-year-old Antonio Cassano, who is in good form for Parma but has not played for Italy since helping them reach the final of Euro 2012.

"The doors to Cassano were never closed, but they are not too open either," he said.