Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 12th 2015 Contents A48
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, October 12, 2015
ROME---Italy is doing just fine with-
out Mario Balotelli.
A convincing 3-1 win at Azerbaijan
on Saturday secured the Azzurri a spot
at next year's European Championship
to cap a qualifying campaign in which
Balotelli didn't play a single match.
Antonio Conte, the coach hired when
Cesare Prandelli resigned after the
Azzurri's first-round elimination from
last year's World Cup, has taken a liking
to a new forward pairing of Brazilian-
born Eder and the long-overlooked
Graziano Pelle, a standout for
Southampton in the English Premier
"We're united and unity is our
strength," Eder said after scoring one
goal and helping set up another in
Baku---giving him two scores in five
matches for Italy to go with six in seven
Serie A appearances this season for
Team unity was clearly a problem at
last year's World Cup in Brazil, where
Balotelli's personality and actions came
into conflict with that of the squad's
Conte called up Balotelli once last
November but he left the team with an
injury before getting a chance to play.
Before he picked up an injury last
week, there was speculation that Conte
would call up Balotelli for the Azerbaijan
match and Tuesday's Group H game
against Norway in Rome, in which Italy
can seal first place.
After a dismal season at Liverpool in
which he scored just one goal in the
Premier League, Balotelli has shown
signs of a return to form at AC Milan,
scoring a majestic free kick against Udi-
nese last month to end a seven-month
"Even if Balotelli wasn't injured I
wouldn't have called him up," Conte
said. "Two matches and a free-kick
goal are not enough to return to the
national team. There's a path of con-
tinuity, performances and behavior to
So if Balotelli does return to Italy's
squad for next year's tournament in
France, he'll do so without having played
a single qualifier.
The Euros, it should be noted, were
the stage on which Balotelli performed
best, scoring both goals in Italy's 2-1
semifinal win over Germany in 2012.
With or without Balotelli, Conte
believes the Azzurri can contend.
A four-time World Cup winner, Italy's
only European Championship title came
Conte's squad is undefeated in qual-
ifying, having won six matches and
Besides Eder and Pelle, Conte has
also helped revive the career of Stephan
El Shaarawy, whose winning goal Sat-
urday ended a three-year scoring
drought with the national team.
The son of an Egyptian father and
an Italian mother, the 22-year-old El
Shaarawy has been hailed as one of
Italy's best young players for years but
he struggled with injuries and confi-
dence in recent seasons. After failing
to make Italy's squad for last year's
World Cup, he transferred from AC
Milan to Monaco.
The match was also notable for the
performance of another 22-year-old.
Playing in place of the injured midfield
maestro Andrea Pirlo, Verratti set the
tone for the match when he launched
a long, vertical pass for Eder that set
up the opening goal 11 minutes in.
And Manchester United fullback Mat-
teo Darmian sealed the result with his
first national team goal.
"The squad is improving," Conte said.
"Now we've got to continue like this."
With or without Balotelli.
Italy doing fine
PASADENA---Paul Aguilar scored
Mexico's second goal of extra time on
a stunning volley in the 118th minute
to secure a spot for El Tri in the 2017
Confederations Cup with a 3-2 victory
over the United States on Saturday.
Aguilar rocketed his shot past Brad
Guzan after Raul Jimenez passed the
ball over his head and into the penalty
area, putting a thrilling finish on the
latest chapter of this rivalry.
Oribe Peralta scored a goal in the
sixth minute of extra time to put Mexico
up 2-1. Bobby Wood got the equalizer
in the 18th minute of extra time for the
Americans, who lost to Mexico for the
first time in seven games under coach
Aguilar puts Mexico past US
ADDIS ABABA---Ethiopia, Kenya and
Tanzania progressed to the second
round of World Cup qualifying in
Ethiopia overcame a surprising 1-0
loss at Sao Tome and Principe in the
first leg, winning 3-0 at home for a 3-
1 aggregate victory. That set up a sec-
ond-round meeting with Republic of
Kenya had won its first-leg match
5-2 against Mauritius last week, mean-
ing a 0-0 draw Sunday was more than
enough to take the Kenyans through.
They will play Cape Verde in the second
round next month.
Tanzania held on for a 2-1 aggregate
win over Malawi and now faces top-
ranked African team Algeria.
The three were the first of 13 lower-
ranked teams who will make it to
Africa's second round. The other ten
first-round matchups will be settled
Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania
progress in qualifiers
left, and head
the Euro 2016
and Italy at
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