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Cerci gets call as Prandelli names Italy squad
Torino midfielder Alessio Cerci was the only uncapped addition to Italy coach Cesare Prandelli's 27-man squad ahead of an upcoming friendly against Brazil and a 2014 World Cup qualifier against Malta next week.
Cerci has produced some strong performances for the Granata this season and his call-up was widely expected.
Prandelli also called up Genoa defender Luca Antonelli almost three years after he made his debut against Estonia, in 2010.
There were few other surprises by Prandelli, who looks set to stick with his policy of mixing experience and younger players as he attempts to qualify the beaten Euro 2012 finalists for the Brazil bonanza.
As such, Milan defender Mattia De Sciglio and Sampdoria midfielder Andrea Poli remain with the squad while experienced defenders Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Christian Maggio, as well as midfielder Claudio Marchisio, all return having missed the last friendly against France in November.
Italy play Brazil in a friendly in Geneva on Thursday before flying out to Malta for the resumption of their World Cup qualifying campaign on Tuesday.
Roma pair Pablo Osvaldo and Daniele de Rossi, meanwhile, are only available for the friendly as both are suspended for the Malta game.
Although Prandelli continues to experiment in all departments, his biggest concern this season has been finding a consistent front pair who can provide goals.
This week the Italian will have plenty of choice. Mario Balotelli, who scored a brace for AC Milan on Sunday to take his tally to seven goals in six games, features alongside teammate Stephan El Shaarawy, Sebastian Giovinco (Juve), Osvaldo (Roma) and Alberto Gilardino (Bologna).
Italy top qualifying group B on 10 points having won three of their four matches so far.
Bulgaria are second on six points with the Czechs a point further adrift. Malta sit bottom with no points.
Italy team for Brazil friendly and Malta qualifier:
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Morgan De Sanctis (Napoli), Federico Marchetti(Lazio), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris Saint Germain)
Defence: Ignazio Abate (Milan), Luca Antonelli (Genoa), Davide Astori (Cagliari), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Mattia De Sciglio (Milan), Christian Maggio (Napoli), Andrea Ranocchia (Inter)
Midfielders: Antonio Candreva (Lazio), Alessio Cerci (Torino), Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Alessandro Diamanti (Bologna), Emanuele Giaccherini (Juventus), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Riccardo Montolivo (Milan), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus), Andrea Poli (Sampdoria)
Strikers: Mario Balotelli (Milan), Stephan El Shaarawy (Milan), Alberto Gilardino (Bologna), Sebastian Giovinco (Juventus), Pablo Daniel Osvaldo (Roma).
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