Balotelli is beginning to mature, says Prandelli

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli believes that Mario Balotelli is showing signs of maturity as an international forward.

The explosive striker was on target as Italy extended their lead at the top of World Cup qualifying Group B by beating Denmark 3-1.

And his national boss is confident that the Manchester City player can be a huge weapon for Italy and urged the 22-year-old to keep up the good work.

“He has understood what he has to do for Italy,” Prandelli told reporters after Italy’s triumph over Morten Olsen’s side.

“I say that from now on the Balotelli in an Azzurri jersey has to be the one we saw at San Siro against the Danes.”

Balotelli has often been criticised for his lack of commitment or temperament, but Prandelli insists that he is not a liability.

“When I talk about Balotelli, I do not like the suggestion he is a gamble, but the moment has certainly come for him to take his share of responsibility in an Italy shirt,” he continued.

“I want a national team that is always targeting improvement, even if I’d like to have more time to try out some young players.”

Montolivo: Balotelli was magnificent against Denmark

Riccardo Montolivo has taken the time to praise Mario Balotelli in the wake of Italy’s 3-1 World Cup qualification victory over Denmark at San Siro.

The Manchester City attacker helped the Azzurri to the full three points with a fine performance as he netted once and set up another, and the AC Milan midfielder was quick to acknowledge the 22-year-old’s crucial contribution.

“Balotelli was simply magnificent after we had been reduced to 10 players [following Pablo Osvaldo’s dismissal],” Montolivo told reporters.

“He kept the Denmark defence busy all by himself. He held up the ball very well, chased after long balls and worked incredibly hard for the team.

“If this was the real Mario Balotelli, then we have a bright future ahead of us.”

Italy currently top Group B with 10 points from four games, while Denmark stand fifth with two points from three games.

Prandelli salutes Balotelli display after Italy victory

Cesare Prandelli was impressed with his side’s focus in their World Cup qualifying victory over Denmark on Tuesday and reserved special praise for goalscorer Mario Balotelli.

Goals from Riccardo Montolivo, Daniele De Rossi and Balotelli were enough to wrap up a comfortable 3-1 win for the Azzurri, with a dominating performance to match, despite Pablo Osvaldo receiving a red card.

“We found some initial difficulties, as they were pushing us high up the field,” admitted Prandelli, speaking to reporters.

“Then we played excellent football for 20 minutes. We conceded this goal that could’ve made it all go wrong on the stroke of half-time, especially after going down to 10 men, but the team was very organised.

“We showed the spirit of a great team, as with 10-men we fought in an organised and determined manner. Once again these lads did brilliantly and focused on this match, which was very, very important for us.

Prandelli went on to pick out the performance of Balotelli and urged the controversial forward to continue his impressive efforts for the national side.

“Mario has to play like this, with this level of generosity. He has the talent,” he said.

The unpredictable Manchester City striker put in a hard-working performance which earned him a standing ovation at San Siro, which the 22-year-old believes he can replicate in the future.

“I hoped to win this match. Denmark scored just before the break and things got rather complicated, but it was good to score tonight,” he reflected after the game.

“Both with Italy and City, I have always put the effort in and am improving in terms of my work rate. I have had this humility for a while and can continue to have it without problems.”

Abete: All players must set an example, not just Balotelli

Abete’s remarks come in the wake of comments made by Manchester City’s football administrator Brian Marwood, who insinuated that Balotelli is not a good role model for the club’s young players.

Italian football federation (FIGC) president Giancarlo Abete has hit out at Mario Balotelli’s critics, insisting all footballers must display a level of maturity both on and off the field and not just the striker. There are some online betting options available on Balotelli if he’ll get red card in match agains’t Real Madrid.

While Marwood did not mention the Italian’s name, it was widely reported his comments were directed towards the 22-year-old.

“I look at Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, Joe Hart, Gareth Barry, Joleon Lescott,” he told reporters.

“We have a lot of players who think and behave in the right way. You have to make sure they’re the role models.

“I think, and we all know who you’re talking about, you’ll always get people within the system that will not show those values and behaviours, but in the main I think we have a fantastic group of players.”

But Abete has insisted that this is not something that is specific to Balotelli.

When asked about Marwood’s comments, Abete claimed that all players are expected to show their quality and maturity at all times.

“That is something that relates not only to him but to all players. They must have quality also in their behaviour,” he told Italian radio station Radio Anch’io Sport.

He also made it clear that Italy manager Cesare Prandelli considers all aspects of a player’s attitude before deciding whether to select them for the national side.

He added: “Prandelli is very keen to consider also these things and I’m sure he will know what to do. This is something we have to live with.”

Simon Kjaer: I can stop Balotelli

Simon Kjaer believes that he will be more than capable of containing Mario Balotelli when Denmark face Italy in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday.

The Wolfsburg defender admits that the Euro 2012 finalists have a number of threatening players going forward, but his past experience in facing world-class strikers has given him heart.

“I’m sure I’ll do a good job on Tuesday and will stop Mario pretty well,” told reporters. “We have faced many great strikers and Balotelli will not do anything different from the others.

“We all know what Balotelli can do. You could say he was one of the main strikers for the Azzurri in the European Championship, but they have so many good players that it would be wrong to focus on just Mario.”

Kick-off between Italy and Denmark is scheduled for 20:45CET on Tuesday.