Italy boss Cesare Prandelli has reassured Mario Balotelli that he has faith in the young striker. “Nobody wants to do him any harm.”
The Manchester City man was dropped from the starting line-up for the win over the Republic of Ireland, but he came off the bench to net a late goal in the 2-0 win.
Instead of celebrating the strike, however, he launched a verbal assault before being silenced by teammate Leonardo Bonucci.
“I don’t know if Balotelli had a problem with me,” Azzurri tactician Prandelli stated on Tuesday. “I’ll ask him.
“We’ve spoken about his non-celebrations after goals, but these things need to be spontaneous. Perhaps he struggles to show the joy he has inside.
“A lot depends on the moment, his mood, but he’s generally a golden boy.
“I was happy for him after his goal, I had the courage to put him on, a calculated courage, but I want him to show his maximum potential.
“He has to live through these types of moments in order to become a champion. He has to accept criticism, accept a place on the bench and the fact that the team asks for even more from him.
“Nobody wants to do him any harm. He’s the way he is, but he’s not an outsider in the squad.”
Italy progressed to the last eight last night and they could play one of three teams in Kiev on Sunday evening.
“France are a side to be feared. They play a very interesting 4-3-3, with three modern attackers who don’t give you any reference points.
“England are a team who never give up and they have now found some interesting players.
“Ukraine are good on the counter-attack. Now we have two days to recover physically and another three days to prepare for the game. We’ll be competitive against whichever side we face.”
Over 20 million people watched the game on TV in the peninsula and Prandelli is content with the appeal of his players.
“I’m happy, it means that this national side is one which the people have fallen in love with,” he added. “Things are working.
“I would give a good mark to this team. They deserve a seven so far. In the first game we played the best in Spain. We played good football against Croatia. We suffered against Ireland, but we gave an important signal.”
There was one negative last night though after Juventus stopper Giorgio Chiellini picked up a muscle injury.
“He’ll have a scan soon, but the initial tests are not good,” the former Fiorentina man continued.
“Giorgio, though, has already put himself at the disposal of the squad and the doctors are working on him. We’ll do what we did with Andrea Barzagli, who I think did well on his return to the side last night after injury.”