Italians better off without Mario: Motta

MILAN • Italy midfielder Thiago Motta believes the omission of Mario Balotelli will benefit the Azzurri and suggests that their "team spirit" will be their trump card at Euro 2016.

Italy manager Antonio Conte named his 30-man provisional squad for the championship on Monday, and his selection was notable as much for the player he left out as for those he chose.

AC Milan's controversial striker Balotelli will not be part of the team for the championship which starts on June 10. Veteran midfielder Andrea Pirlo and winger Sebastian Giovinco were omitted as well.

Key midfielders Claudio Marchisio and Marco Verratti will also miss out because of injuries.

Their absence is one reason that Italy's chances have largely been written off by their national media.

That the Azzurri, who failed to make it past the group stage at the 2014 World Cup, have been drawn into the "Group of Death" alongside Belgium, Sweden, and the Republic of Ireland at the continental tournament has contributed to the lower expectations.

But Motta is expecting a different Italy side to show up in France.

"In Brazil we lacked unity. We all made mistakes and some players thought about themselves too much," the Paris Saint-Germain player told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"A player like Balotelli becomes important only if he's willing to play for the team. This is football, not tennis.

"This Italy squad has a clear mind and everybody plays for their comrades."

He added that the low expectations can only be good for the team.

"All for the better if people are pessimistic. Whatever we do on top of expectations will be a plus," he said. "It's the other way round at PSG, where there is a tremendous hype and people consider you a failure if you win four trophies out of five and don't make it past the Champions League quarter-finals.

"It's understandable that fans aren't optimistic after the last World Cup, but this Italy has a strong team spirit. If we can stay humble, we'll go far."

Italy's 23-man Euro 2016 squad will be announced next Tuesday.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2016, with the headline 'Italians better off without Mario: Motta'. Print Edition | Subscribe