Italy coach Prandelli issues appeal to Balotelli

ANDREW DAMPF AP Sports Writer Published:

ROME (AP) -- Italy coach Cesare Prandelli issued another appeal to Mario Balotelli for the wild-headed Manchester City striker to get his act together in time for the European Championship.

Prandelli left Balotelli out of his squad for last month's friendly loss to the United States for disciplinary reasons, but he's still hoping to include him in the final 23-man list for the June 8-July 1 tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

"In my head, Balotelli is a starter. But he still needs to show that he's got the personality and capacity to handle this pressure," Prandelli said Wednesday in a meeting with foreign media.

Upon replacing Marcello Lippi after Italy's disastrous first-round exit from the 2010 World Cup, Prandelli installed a strict code of ethics with the national team that prevents players who are facing bans in domestic leagues from wearing the Azzurri jersey.

"There's a line of behavior and a certain way to handle yourself, and we shouldn't have to keep track of players' behavior," Prandelli said.

The 21-year-old Balotelli, while widely considered Italy's most talented young player, has often displayed questionable judgment -- both on and off the pitch.

Balotelli missed the United States match because he was being investigated by the English Football Association for appearing to stomp on Scott Parker's head during a win against Tottenham.

Earlier this season, Balotelli had to come up with an explanation for English authorities after a fire broke out in his house when fireworks were let off in his bathroom.

Prandelli indicated before the U.S. match that he was disappointed Balotelli didn't call him to explain what happened against Tottenham.

"The players that have been with me on the national team know the rules," the coach said.

Balotelli's participation at Euro 2012 is of utmost importance to Italy since starting strikers Antonio Cassano and Giuseppe Rossi are still out with health problems.

Cassano is recovering from minor heart surgery and Rossi is working his way back from knee surgery.

"Until May, my idea and thought is to get these two players back," Prandelli said. "We've got to give them more time."

Italy was drawn into a difficult group featuring world and defending European champion Spain, Croatia and Ireland.

Prandelli wants to schedule a series of brief training sessions in the coming weeks but has so far been turned down by the clubs. However, Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Petrucci recently took up Prandelli's cause.

"We're waiting, but without creating any drama or controversy," Prandelli said.

Meanwhile, the Italy manager came out in support of the use of TV replays.

"I've always reiterated that technology could be a deterrent for controversy and violence," Prandelli said. "I'm for technology and innovation. ... But football is always slow to change."