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Russia plan squad purge for World Cup

Russia
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Prandelli: Balotelli not assured of place

Only captain Gianluigi Buffon is guaranteed a place in the Italy squad for the World Cup finals, coach Cesare Prandelli has insisted.

Cesare Prandelli had urged Italy not to take their seeding place for granted. They promptly drew at home to Armenia.
Cesare Prandelli guided Italy to the final of Euro 2012 where they lost to Spain.

The other 22 players joining the Juventus goalkeeper on the flight to Brazil have yet to be determined, and nobody -- not even Mario Balotelli -- can take their place for granted.

Speaking at the end of a get together involving 31 young stars who expected to be fighting for a place in the national team in the future, Prandelli said he is still uncertain about his World Cup choices.

"For me, the only certainty is Gigi [Buffon]," Prandelli told RAI television. "For everybody else, I'm going to have to evaluate their physical and mental condition. That also applies to Balotelli. Mario has looked a bit out of sorts in terms of his physical condition."

A call-up for Antonio Cassano is not out of the question either, although it is looking more like a shake of the head than a nod for the Parma forward, whose club coach Roberto Donadoni says it is hard not to see how good his form currently is.

"I've never closed the door on Antonio," Prandelli said. "But at the same time, it's never been wide open either. We know how talented Antonio is, but he has got to show that in an organised context and not be the only one responsible.

"If they [Cassano and Balotelli] can show this in a squad context, then they are players who can amplify your quality.

"I'll say it again: for the 23 players for the World Cup, I've not yet decided anything. Only Buffon is certain and all the rest are under observation, including Balotelli."

Cassano has scored three goals in his left seven appearances for a Parma side which is in hot form, and has moved into the Europa League qualification places in Serie A.

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