Belfast Telegraph

World Cup 2018

Fixtures & Results

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Home Sport Football

Mancini satisfied with Balotelli display in Italy victory over Saudi Arabia

Balotelli marked his return to the national team with a goal.

Italy head coach Roberto Mancini thought Mario Balotelli enjoyed a “good enough” return to life with the Azzurri as the striker scored in a 2-1 friendly victory over Saudi Arabia.

Balotelli, now 27, had not featured for Italy since the World Cup in Brazil four years ago and was recalled by new boss Mancini, his former manager at Manchester City, following a season in which he scored 26 goals for Nice.

He duly scored his first goal for Italy since he hit the winner against England in Manaus in June 2014, and Italy doubled their lead through Andrea Belotti before Yahya Al-Shehri responded for the Saudis.

After full-time in St Gallen, Switzerland, Mancini told La Gazzetta dello Sport: “For his first game back, Mario was good enough. I would say it was a positive display, above and beyond the goal.”

Mancini was happy to record a victory as Italy continue down the road to recovery following their shock failure to qualify for this summer’s World Cup.

“Getting back to winning is important and we did well in the first 45 minutes,” added the former Inter Milan boss. “The performance will probably be better against a stronger team.

“We have to learn how to keep it up across the 90 minutes but we did manage to get several shots off and play quickly.

“(Saudi Arabia) are far behind us in the rankings but the players mostly come from two clubs so they are well united. They are also preparing for a World Cup.

“I can’t make any deeper assessments as my players are at the end of their campaigns and have been through a lot this year.”

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