Saturday October 3 2015
'World Cup still burns, but Balo...'

Former Italy Coach Cesare Prandelli says the World Cup is 'an open wound', while praising Mario Balotelli: 'He's matured.'

The Brazil 2014 campaign marked the second time in a row that Italy was eliminated at the group stage in the world's greatest football tournament, and many blamed Prandelli for the dire result.

“That knock-out [in the group stage] still burns, it's a wound that's always open,” he told Il Corriere dello Sport.

“It's my fault, maybe I should have insisted with the group from the Euros, people like [Emanuele] Giaccherini and [Alessandro] Diamanti perhaps.

“It was my own technical project, though the conditions of humidity and heat didn't help, nor did the unbalanced group we were drawn in.

“In this country people struggle to take responsibility, but I resigned.

“Our mistake was the game against Costa Rica. We never had a shot on goal.

“But I had no reproaches for the team. I told them after Uruguay that I was going to go out there and take responsibility because that was the right thing to do.

“The lads gave it all. I was very struck by Thiago Motta. In the changing rooms, after the game against England, he was moved and he told us he was proud to be part of this group.”

Prandelli then went on to discuss his former Azzurri pupil, Mario Balotelli.

“I've long been fond of Mario and I support him still, because I always helped him develop and defended him, even though he had machine-guns pointed against him.

“He's a fellow who lives life his own way, but I heard him discussing important things so I think he's matured. He's a great talent for our football.

“As for our own clubs, my suggestion is to invest in the youth teams. That's the only way we can get our talents back without spending fortunes in the transfer market.

“Today the best are [Riccardo] Saponara, [Mattia] De Sciglio, [Lorenzo] Insigne, [Domenico] Berardi.

“Football demands sacrifices but often these are rewarded. Look at Messi. Today he's the best in the world in spite of the trouble he had as a child.”