'Extraordinary' Balotelli showing great focus, says Prandelli

The Azzurri head coach also gave his reasons for choosing Alessio Cerci, while explaining that he wants his players to forget about the Malta match for now and focus on Brazil

Italy head coach Cesare Prandelli has branded Mario Balotelli “extraordinary” for his exploits since joining AC Milan on January’s transfer deadline day, and particular praised the striker’s prolonged focus.

The 22-year-old has scored seven goals in six Serie A games since leaving Manchester City earlier this year, and Prandelli has clearly been impressed with his Azzurri forward.

“His greatest achievement is now he is remaining focused for long stretches of the game,” he told reporters on Monday. “It is extraordinary that he is continuing doing this at Milan.

“He is training better, with more attention to detail too because he knows he has to play that way in the national team.”

Prandelli has also been enamoured with the performances of Torino’s Alessio Cerci, and the 25-year-old has earned his first call-up ahead of the nation’s friendly against Brazil and World Cup qualifier against Malta.

He added: “He has brought consistency to his good performances in recent years. [Torino coach Giampiero] Ventura thinks he is managing to convey [skill] for the right reasons.

“He is an interesting guy with a great shot and excellent attacking ability. We wanted to start a journey with him, as we are thinking of using two wingers on the flanks in the future.”

Juventus and Milan stars dominated Prandelli’s recent squad list, and the coach who took the Azzurri to the Euro 2012 final says it is to help inspire unity in the team despite each spot being chosen fairly.

“We have five Milan players and eight Juventus ones because I like the idea of being able to work on blocks,” he continued.

“With a little work, we can fill in the gaps and increase our team spirit. But the choices are dictated by merit.”

Italy face Brazil in Switzerland on Thursday before tackling minnows Malta five days later, and the coach has called for his players to treat the friendly with the South American giants as a competitive fixture.

“We would like to face Brazil with great joy and great peace of mind, but I know that we Italians are not like that,” Prandelli added.

“The idea is to face Brazil as if it were a qualifying match, like the one with Malta. We cannot waste time in preparing for nerves in the match against Brazil – they inspire awe.

“We must not be afraid, but we forget will Malta for now. This means there will be no experiments.”

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