Prandelli: Balotelli return will boost Italy

Head coach Cesare Prandelli feels Mario Balotelli's long-awaited return to Italy will be a huge boost for the national side and for the player's personal well-being.

Balotelli taunting Given caught on film.

Balotelli celebrated his call-up to the Azzurri squad that will face Holland in a friendly match in Amsterdam by scoring a match-winning brace on his AC Milan debut against Udinese.

Rossoneri striker Stephan El Shaarawy had a hand in both goals and Prandelli is considering deploying the promising duo as the spearhead of his attack at the Amsterdam ArenA.

He told the FIGC's official website: "The fact that they're now playing together at club level is an advantage for the national team.

"Now is not the time to make the final decision but we are giving it some thought.

"We thought about using that partnership against France in August and since then we've seen the enormous potential.

"Would I have my hair cut into a crest like theirs if they win us the World Cup? If it helps us win the thing, I'd get two cut into my hair."

Prandelli believes Balotelli can put the off-field drama that marred his spell at Manchester City behind him and concentrate on delivering the kind of performances that helped Italy reach the final of last summer's European Championships.

"I'm glad he's back in Italy," he said. "A really smiley and helpful guy has turned up, he's rediscovered the happiness that he'd lost.

"Certain situations outside of football had become unbearable for him. Now that he's at Milan we can control that kind of thing better.

"Without meaning to he's become an important figure in football, but perhaps it has been no accident.

"It was maybe pre-destined to happen but now he has to make his football do the talking, like he did against Udinese."

Juventus forward Sebastian Giovinco was forced to withdraw from Prandelli's 25-man squad through injury and the Azzurri are also missing defenders Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Federico Balzaretti.

Lazio goalkeeper Federico Marchetti, however, has been rewarded for some resilient performances in Serie A with his first call-up since the 2010 World Cup.

He is unlikely to dislodge Gianluigi Buffon from between the sticks, as the Juve keeper prepares to add to his 123 caps and close in on record-holding defender Fabio Cannavaro, who represented the Azzurri 136 times.

Holland boss Louis van Gaal should field an inexperienced side with veteran internationals Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, John Heitinga, Maarten Stekelenburg and Rafael van der Vaart all out of contention.

Benfica winger Ola John and Ajax defender Daley Blind could make their Oranje debuts alongside Jonathan de Guzman, who has caught Van Gaal's eye with his dominant displays for Swansea.

The 25-year-old Canada-born midfielder told Volkskrant.nl: "I was very surprised. You only come into this coach's thoughts if you're playing well and often.

"I've been approached by the Canadian federation on a regular basis in the last few years, but I was always hoping to get a chance with the Dutch national team.

"Perhaps it will come against Italy but I'm not counting on it. I'm secretly hoping I'll play, of course.

"I'm just going to do my best. I'll do all I can and hopefully I'll enjoy it. It will undoubtedly be a very special day for me."

Meanwhile, Manchester United striker Robin van Persie could equal Johan Cruyff's haul of 33 goals in Oranje with a brace on Wednesday night.



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