'Balotelli played his best Italy game' – Prandelli

The coach is pleased to see his striker’s natural hunger rub off on his team-mates and revealed Luca Antonelli’s injury not as bad as originally feared

Cesare Prandelli believes Mario Balotelli produced his best performance in an Italy shirt in the 4-0 San Marino win on Friday, despite having only played 40 minutes of the match.

The AC Milan striker came off the bench for Alberto Gilardino just after half-time and went on to hit the woodwork twice against the minnows in the Azzurri friendly.

Prandelli, who helped guide Italy to the Euro 2012 final last summer, thinks that Balotelli’s desire rubs off on the other players and was happy to see his side well-supported despite the meaningless nature of the match.

“Balotelli played his best game since I’ve been here,” he told reporters after the game. “He must always have this spirit and this hunger. This is the attitude a champion needs to have and he transmitted it to his team-mates.

“The people love Mario and we’re all happy, as this Nazionale is popular with the fans. The lads are enthusiastic, hungry and happy to see so many fans in the stadium. We thank the supporters for coming out and cheering on the players, as the team definitely feels that warmth.”

Prandelli was pleased that the squad’s initial fears that Luca Antonelli had picked up a serious injury were unfounded and admitted he has some choices to make ahead of whittling his 30-man provisional Confederations Cup squad down to 23.

“The good news is there is no fracture for Antonelli,” the former Fiorentina coach added. “We tried to play quickly and not allow counter-attacks to our opponents, so I saw what I wanted to see and am very satisfied.

“Many players were called up so I could see them in action and work with them in training. It was a useful match to understand a few things, as there are some precise choices that need to be made.”

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