Thursday, August 24, 2017

Bonucci backs Balotelli

Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci has thrown his support behind unpredictable forward Mario Balotelli ahead of the Euro 2012 quarter-finals.

The Italians face England in the last eight on Sunday, with much of the pre-match build-up focusing on whether Balotelli will be given a starting berth.

Balotelli was dropped for the final group game against the Republic of Ireland but came off the bench to score a stunning goal in the 2-0 win.

The Manchester City striker was silenced by Bonucci after scoring, but Bonucci insists Balotelli is important to Italy’s prospects in Kiev.

“Mario has integrated,” Bonucci said.

“Yesterday, for example, he was smiling and joking around with Di Natale.

“I think Mario is a great talent, and when he plays like he did against Ireland he can really prove the difference.”

Italy have been indifferent so far in the tournament after drawing with Spain and Croatia before beating Ireland to advance as Group C runners-up.

But Bonucci believes his side are in better form than England heading into the crucial clash.

“In terms of performance, we have probably been playing better than England so far in this tournament.

“But the thing is, if you want to achieve a good result you must be clinical in front of goal, you have to play your own game and be convincing in everything you do.”

The last time the two sides met was in 2002 when Italy beat England 2-1 at Elland Road in Leeds.

The Italians face England in the last eight on Sunday, with much of the pre-match build-up focusing on whether Balotelli will be given a starting berth.

Balotelli was dropped for the final group game against the Republic of Ireland but came off the bench to score a stunning goal in the 2-0 win.

The Manchester City striker was silenced by Bonucci after scoring, but Bonucci insists Balotelli is important to Italy’s prospects in Kiev.

“Mario has integrated,” Bonucci said.

“Yesterday, for example, he was smiling and joking around with Di Natale.

“I think Mario is a great talent, and when he plays like he did against Ireland he can really prove the difference.”

Italy have been indifferent so far in the tournament after drawing with Spain and Croatia before beating Ireland to advance as Group C runners-up.

But Bonucci believes his side are in better form than England heading into the crucial clash.

“In terms of performance, we have probably been playing better than England so far in this tournament.

“But the thing is, if you want to achieve a good result you must be clinical in front of goal, you have to play your own game and be convincing in everything you do.”

The last time the two sides met was in 2002 when Italy beat England 2-1 at Elland Road in Leeds.

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