Prandelli to confront Balotelli

19 June 2012 05:18

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli plans to ask Mario Balotelli if his angry outburst after scoring in the 2-0 triumph over the Republic of Ireland on Monday was directed at him.

Prandelli did not to start the 21-year-old for the first time at the European Championship. The temperamental Manchester City forward came off the bench and scored his first goal in the tournament but rather than celebrate, he looked into the direction of the Italian bench and shouted a few words before team-mate Leonardo Bonucci put his hand over the striker's mouth.

"I don't know if Balotelli was upset with me, I will ask him," Prandelli said in Tuesday's press conference. "But from Bonucci's gesture you can see the team spirit in the group. Why didn't he (Balotelli) celebrate the goal? That has to be something spontaneous. Perhaps he is not able to express the joy he feels inside."

He added: "He is like that, he has always been like that but that doesn't mean he is detached from the group."

Prandelli was pleased with Balotelli's performance but says he is still growing up as a player.

"When he entered the pitch he did what we asked him to do," Prandelli said. "In order to take that leap and become a champion, Balotelli has to go through this moments.

"He has to accept criticism, being on the bench and for the team to demand more from him. The day he understands that no-one wants to hurt him but rather that everyone is helping him, then we will have in Italy a champion."

Monday's triumph allowed Italy to progress to the quarter-finals of the competition as second in the group behind Spain. Italy will take on the Group D winners on Sunday in Kiev with Ukraine, France and England all in contention for that spot.

"France is a team to fear," Prandelli said. "They play a very interesting 4-3-3 formation, with three modern strikers that don't give many reference points.

"England is a team that never gives up and now it has found interesting players. Ukraine have a great team spirit and their counter-attacks are very dangerous."

Source: PA