Balotelli dropped from Italy squad as European champions face 2022 World Cup play-offs

Having been recalled for a training camp in January, the forward has not made the cut for this month’s crunch clashes

Mario Balotelli has been omitted from Italy’s squad for the March international break, as Roberto Mancini names his 33-man party for the Azzurri’s crucial 2022 qualifiers.

The striker, who currently plays with Adana Demirspor in the Super Lig, earned a recall to the national team in Janaury, having not played for them since 2018, but finds himself on the fringes again as the nation prepares for up to two must-win matches.

Balotelli dropped from Italy squad as European champions face 2022 World Cup play-offs
Balotelli dropped from Italy squad as European champions face 2022 World Cup play-offs

Less than a year on from their unbeaten triumph at Euro 2020 against England, they face the prospect of a second successive no-show at the World Cup.

Who’s in and who’s out?

While Balotelli is far from the only eye-catching absence, his omission is the one likely to generate the most interest given his surprise return to the squad for a training camp in January.

But the fiery striker is not the only one left out in the cold, with Juventus’ Federico Bernardeschi, Sassuolo’s Davide Frattesi and Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret also among those who are missing from the final party.

There are recalls however for shotstopper duo Gianluigi Donnarumma and Pierluigi Gollini, playmaker Jorginho and Lyon defender Emerson Palmieri, who were all absent in the winter.

Why are Italy in the play-offs?

Having beaten England at Wembley in a penalty shootout to claim European glory last year, the Azzurri promptly struggled to replicate their form across the autumn, managing just two wins from seven games to fall short of automatic qualification behind Switzerland.

It meant that they were forced to fall into the secound round of UEFA’s qualifcation, where they were drawn in Path C, alongside Portugal, Turkey and North Macedonia.

They will face the latter in Palermo on March 24 – and if they win, will travel to either Porto or Konya to square off with the other victorious nation for a place at Qatar 2022.

Italy’s squad in full

Goalkeepers: Alessio Cragno (Cagliari), Gianluigi Donnarumma (Paris Saint Germain), Pierluigi Gollini (Tottenham), Salvatore Sirigu (Genoa);

Defenders: Francesco Acerbi (Lazio), Alessandro Bastoni (Inter), Cristiano Biraghi (Fiorentina), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Emerson Palmieri (Lyon), Alessandro Florenzi (Milan), Luiz Felipe (Lazio), Gianluca Mancini (Roma)

Midfielders: Nicolo Barella (Inter), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Jorginho (Chelsea), Manuel Locatelli (Juventus), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Matteo Pessina (Atalanta), Stefano Sensi (Sampdoria), Sandro Tonali (Milan), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint Germain)

Strikers: Andrea Belotti (Torino), Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Joao Pedro (Cagliari), Matteo Politano (Napoli), Giacomo Raspadori (Sassuolo), Gianluca Scamacca (Sassuolo) Mattia Zaccagni (Lazio), Nicolo Zaniolo (Roma).

Source: Goal

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