Italy boss to hand Amauri and Balotelli Azzurri debuts

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles
mario balotelli
Balotelli, 19, is set to become Italy's first black player at senior level (Photo: Steindy)

mario balotelli

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has revealed Juventus forward Amauri and Inter Milan striker Mario Balotelli will both make their Azzurri debuts tomorrow against Ivory Coast.

In addition, controversial Sampdoria attacker Antonio Cassano will return to the international fold after being exiled by former manager Marcello Lippi.

Prandelli, who took charge of the national team after Lippi stood down following the World Cup, said he had provisionally selected his starting eleven with only the goalkeeper and left-forward position still undecided.

However, he confirmed that the highly-rated Balotelli will most likely fill the void on the left of a three-man attack in tomorrow night’s friendly.

“I have two doubts: the goalkeeper and the outside upper left forward, although I think Balotelli will start in that position,” said Prandelli.

He added: “The idea to start Balotelli from the beginning was born from wanting to immediately exploit the full potential offensive options available to me.”

If Prandelli does hand Balotelli a starting spot tomorrow night at Upton Park, the 19-year-old will become the first black footballer represent Italy at senior level.

It is an incredible statistic for a nation which has four times won the World Cup, and Prandelli added: “He [Balotelli] knows it is the beginning of a long journey.”

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport Balotelli will wear the coveted number ten shirt while Cassano will be handed number nine. Either Palermo’s Salvatore Sirigu or Bologna’s Emiliano Viviano is expected to receive a first full debut in goal.

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