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Five Aside

Balotelli gives Italy 'bright future'

Mario Balotelli has been singled out for praise by Italy coach Cesare Prandelli and team-mate Riccardo Montolivo following the win against Denmark.

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The Man City striker marked his return to the national team by scoring one goal and setting up another in a 3-1. After coming in for abuse from City administrator Brian Marwood recently, Balotelli, 22, was in a mood to answer his critics.

"Mario has to play like this, with this level of generosity. He has the talent," Prandelli told reporters after the game. Those thoughts were echoed by AC Milan's Riccardo Montolivo who told RAI: "I think in the second half when we were down to 10 men, Balotelli was simply magnificent.

"He was the entire front line, holding up the ball, running on to passes and keeping the defenders busy. He worked so hard for the team. If this is the real Balotelli, then we've got a great future ahead of us."

Prandelli was also happy with the reaction of his team, down to ten men following the dismissal of Pablo Osvaldo early in the second half, and hailed the Azzurri's determined spirit which ground out the important result.

"We found some initial difficulties, as they were pushing us high up the field," he said. "Then we played excellent football for 20 minutes. We conceded this goal that could've made it all go wrong on the stroke of half-time, especially after going down to 10 men, but the team was very organised."

"I saw the spirit of a great team, as with 10 we fought in an organised and determined manner. Once again these lads did brilliantly and focused on this match, which was very, very important for us."

After four games Italy lead Group B, holding a four point cushion on second-placed Bulgaria.


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