Andrea Pirlo believes Italy’s bid to win the FIFA World Cup could be dependent on the form of Milan striker Mario Balotelli.
Cesare Prandelli’s charges booked their spot in Brazil by finishing top of UEFA qualifying Group B, winning six and drawing four of their 10 matches.
Balotelli was an integral part of Italy’s unbeaten qualifying campaign, scoring five goals, and the 23-year-old will be looked upon to help Italy through a tricky World Cup group featuring Uruguay, England and Costa Rica.
Experienced Juventus midfielder Pirlo feels the form of Balotelli could be crucial to Italy’s success, but warned that the whole squad will have to be at their best.
“We know it’s a difficult group, but I really like the atmosphere in Brazil,” he said in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Do we depend on Mario Balotelli? Partly yes, but we are all important to the cause. Mario is old enough now, so he doesn’t need advice any more.
“He just needs to focus on finding his form in the summer, concentrate on the football and leave the rest alone.”
Closer to home, Pirlo is hoping to lift the UEFA Europa League in addition to a third straight league title.
Juve earned a Europa League semi-final tie with Primeira Liga leaders Benfica by defeating Lyon 3-1 on aggregate in the last eight, and the club would have the added bonus of playing on home turf should they reach the final.
“Benfica did well to reach the semi-final, they have had a great season and are technically gifted,” Pirlo added.
“(But) we had a clear objective when we went out of the Champions League and that was to reach the final in Turin. The tournament is not a distraction, as we want it as much as the Scudetto.”
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