Di Biagio to monitor Balotelli form after Italy omission

Luigi Di Biagio is pinning hopes of Italy’s resurgence on two young forwards, although he is not discounting the Nice forward

Italy interim boss Luigi Di Biagio insists he will continue to monitor the form of Mario Balotelli, having omitted him from his squad to face Argentina and England.

Balotelli had been tipped for a recall, having scored 14 goals in 21 Ligue 1 games for Nice this season.

However, the 27-year-old has missed out on a call-up, with uncapped duo Patrick Cutrone and Federico Chiesa called up instead.

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Explaining Balotelli’s omission, Di Biagio said: “I’ll keep following him and we’ll see what happens in the next few months.

“Scoring goals is very important for forwards but this must be complemented by their performances. I made my evaluations and took a decision for the good of the team.”

With Italy desperate to start rebuilding their image after their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Di Biagio hopes Cutrone and Chiesa can show their class at the senior level of international football.

“With a bit of patience, we can rebuild an important team. There are lots of young players and they’re developing,” he added

“I called up Cutrone because of his performances, his enthusiasm and for the fact that he’s moved through all the youth teams, starting from Under-15 level, and he knows exactly what I ask of him. Then, there are his goals, which never hurt.

“Chiesa is ready to be here permanently but this will depend on what happens in the league and it will depend above all on what he shows in training and in matches.”

He continued: “The first aim is to play well and impose our style of play. If you play well, then, in 10 matches, you’ll end up winning eight of them.

“For me, playing well means having the courage to get into the other team’s half regardless of the quality of the team that you’re taking on. It means sending the full-backs up to attack, pressing the opponents high and not being afraid to take on the best players.

“This is a cohesive group made up of players that I’ve seen develop. We need to start again with the right conviction straight away. We’re not at the level of the world’s strongest national teams, but neither are we among the worst.”

Veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is also back in the squad, having reversed his decision to retire from international football, and Di Biagio hopes to lean on his experience.

“Gigi is here for his presence but he’s also here to play, help me and bring extra value on and off the pitch,” he said.

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