Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has revealed that he views Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Balotelli as an ideal partnership heading into next year’s World Cup. Prandelli made the same proclamation of faith in the pair when he first took the reins of the Azzurri in 2010 but has so far been unable to field them in tandem after Rossi suffered back-to-back cruciate ligament injuries.
Rossi has now returned to action with Fiorentina and has been in scintillating form, leading the Serie A scoring charts with 11 goals in just 12 appearances. But Prandelli’s hopes of getting the New Jersey-born forward back in an Italy shirt in Friday’s friendly with Germany has been hit by illness. Still, Prandelli will hope to field the 26-year-old against Nigeria next Monday.
“Balotelli with Rossi is a tandem that I really like,” Prandelli told RAI Sport, according to Fotball-Italia.net. “The two complement each other and they don’t offer the opposition any points of reference. In my mind Balotelli is a center-forward, while Pepito (Rossi) is someone who can play behind him. Unfortunately I can’t try this experiment against Germany, but there will be time.”
Despite enduring a difficult time with Milan, Balotelli will start against Germany. And the striker has fond memories of Friday’s visitors to the San Siro. The last time Italy and Germany met was in the semifinals of Euro 2012 when two memorable strikes from Balotelli fired his side through to the final.
That was the second-straight tournament in which Germany had exited at the semifinal stage, and arguably the only thing lacking from Joachim Low’s reign is a major title. But the man who will lead his country out for the 100th time in Milan, believes the side have made big improvements during his tenure and are targeting a victory at next year’s World Cup.
“Looking back I can see an improvement,” he said, according to Bundesliga.com. “I find it extremely satisfying to realize we've gone up to another level since 2008. In the last two or three years in particular we've taken incredibly big steps forward.
"You're obliged to win a title after a certain time, and we're preparing believing we can win it," Low added. "There are other nations who, like us, will be going to Brazil hoping to do so too. We'll need to be at our best."
Low will be without Bayern Munich’s Bastian Schweinsteiger through injury, but has handed a first call up to Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller. Mario Gomez remains sidelined, but fellow-striker Miroslav Klose returns to the squad.
Where to watch: The international friendly will kick off from the San Siro at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by RAI Internazionale. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.
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