Mario Balotelli admits the numerous misses against the Czech Republic shook him. “It’s never happened to me before.”
The striker hit the bar in the first half and missed several sitters one-on-one with Petr Cech, but eventually converted the decisive penalty in a 2-1 Italy victory.
“It’s never happened to me before. I was unlucky, but I kept trying to the end,” he told RAI Sport.
“It is becoming a good group and above all a great squad, as we manage to climb out of difficult situations.
“When Cech parried that shot I thought he would get it if I fired low, so I tried to raise the finish, but I lifted it too much.”
There was some jeering after the series of misses, but the crowd at the Juventus Stadium quickly began chanting his name in support.
“I thank the fans and compliment them, as I wasn’t expecting such a nice reaction. I thank them.”
The Azzurri started out with a 3-4-2-1 system, then switched to a 4-3-3 with Dani Osvaldo on for the second half.
“I feel better with a striker by my side, but we had many chances in the first half too. I personally prefer to have another forward there.”
Balotelli was booked and risked a second card when reacting to a foul, but managed to hold back.
“At times you can react because they go over the top, at times you manage to control yourself. You always try to control yourself, but it’s not easy on the pitch.
“I was trying to get the ball and didn’t even see the player, so in my view it wasn’t even a yellow. I hit him, but it was not voluntary.”
Italy have qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the first European team to achieve this along with Holland.
“I think we’re among the favourites. There are still one or two teams who are above us, but they should fear us, not the other way round.”
This week Balotelli raised eyebrows when he missed the visit of Minister for Integration Cecile Kyenge, but insists it was a storm in a teacup.
“I am not interested in what people say. I already met Minister Kyenge, I will see her again in future and it was not a mandatory meeting. I was asleep, as were many other players in the squad, but nobody in the media mentioned them.
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to represent for you.”