Bonucci backs Balotelli to shine
Leonardo Bonucci has urged Mario Balotelli to be Italy's smiling assassin in Sunday's European Championship quarter-final against England.
Juventus defender Bonucci has looked out for Balotelli ever since they were team-mates at Inter Milan, arguably never more so than during their country's victory against Republic of Ireland on Monday.
Bonucci said: "If he can smile a bit more, he's a player who can make the difference for us. He's unpredictable, he's strong and he's powerful."
Balotelli appeared to bark angrily at the Italy bench after reacting to being dropped by scoring as a substitute in Poznan but Bonucci was quickly on the scene to place his hand over his team-mate's mouth.
Bonucci claimed the firebrand striker was speaking English and he did not understand what was being said but decided it was better to silence him.
"I played with him in Inter's youth squad and I know him better than anyone else here," Bonucci said. "He was just 17 but I was already scolding him back then. That's just how he is, and that's why I took care of him during the celebration against Ireland."
Bonucci, who revealed Balotelli thanked him after the game, added: "Unfortunately, sometimes he does crazy things. He's spontaneous but he's a good kid."
The Manchester City star also has a unique insight to England's team, all of whom he has played either alongside or against.
"In terms of Balotelli's information, of course he knows them very well," said Bonucci, who will be charged with silencing another maverick in Wayne Rooney on Sunday. "We've started to study him, although England isn't just Rooney.
"He's very skilled, but we need to play as a collective to negate their excellent quality up front."
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