Italy gear up for UEFA Nations League clash with Ukraine and Roberto Mancini calls on Mario Balotelli to improve if he wants to return to squad
- Italy are preparing for their UEFA Nations League game with Ukraine
- Roberto Mancini has left strikers Mario Balotelli and Andrea Belotti out of squad
- Mancini is focused on using young players but Euro 2020 qualification is priority
The Italian put his side through their paces in the sun ahead of the clash in Genoa on Wednesday with stars Giorgio Chiellini, Jorginho and Marco Veratti all present.
There were some notable absentees though as Mancini elected not to call up Mario Balotelli or Torino star Andrea Belotti due to their poor starts to the season.
Roberto Mancini led Italy training on Tuesday ahead of Nations League game with Ukraine
Mancini is looking to build on their previous 1-0 defeat to Portugal in opening match
Italy defender Lorezno Tonelli trains with team-mates in the sun in Florence ahead of clash
Oct 10 – Ukraine (7:45pm, Genoa)
Oct 14 – Poland (7:45pm, Chorzow)
‘They are not in the best form at the moment but they are part of the group and the door is open for everyone. When they are at 100 percent they will be recalled,’ Mancini said.
Balotelli captained his country after Mancini took charge in May but after failing to leave Nice during the summer, he has only featured three times so far this season, failing to score.
His poor form has meant Mancini has left him out of the squad. Belotti also misses out, after only scoring twice in eight appearances for Torino this campaign.
The 53-year-old is placing more of an emphasis on youth players as he looks to build for the future, although the priority is on qualifying for Euro 2020 after they failed to reach this summer’s World Cup.
Italy will look to iconic centre-back Giorgio Chiellini to help keep a clean sheet on Wednesday
Cristiano Biraghi will be hoping to get some game time for Italy after being called up
Cristiano Pucci warms up for the training session ahead of two Nations League games
‘The word patience is not part of our soccer vocabulary, we are used to criticism,’ Mancini continued.
‘We knew that the road would not be easy and I prefer to note that a month ago we lost against the European champions with an under-23 team,’ he said, referring to last month’s 1-0 defeat by Portugal in which Italy fielded a youthful side.
‘That is our path and we must continue. With hard work, we will put together a good team. Playing the Nations League is better than playing friendly games, but the goal remains to qualify for Euro 2020.
‘We have chosen to focus on young players and it will take some time. They deserve to have the chance to try and put the team back among the world’s best,’ Mancini added.
‘But it also means that you need a little bit extra to play for the national team — 70 percent is not enough.’
Italy’s youngster Gianluigi Donnarumma is set to start in goal for the Italians