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In the run-up to Euro 2012, I was against him being in the squad due to his erratic behavior, but now there's absolutely no question that Super Mario is key to the Italian attack. In their first three World Cup qualifiers—which Balotelli missed due to injury and illness—the attack looked flat and the Azzurri struggled to score goals. In the last one, against Denmark, Balotelli transformed the entire attack, assisting on Riccardo Montolivo's opener and scoring the goal in the second half that sealed the deal.
Balotelli again looked good against France in November and looked to have good chemistry with another young striker, Stephan El Shaarawy. With Balotelli and il farone now teammates at Milan, that chemistry could turn into a forward line that could absolutely dominate for the Italians.
The 20-year-old PSG man could finally be the answer to the age-old question of who would take over as Italy's regista when Andrea Pirlo retires, which most people suppose will be after the World Cup in Brazil.
In November's friendly against France, Cesare Prandelli started Verratti and had Pirlo come on later, which gave the youngster valuable experience against a top side in only his second appearance for his country. It wouldn't surprise me if Prandelli did the same thing in order to give his youngster as much experience as he could before the Italians go back into competition and Pirlo takes the reigns again.
This is probably an odd selection for this section, but go with me. With Giorgio Chiellini out and Leonardo Bonucci omitted from the side this time around, Ranocchia may have an opportunity to wrestle his way into the conversation at center-back. Ranocchia has had a complete resurgence this season, and Inter's early fortunes were very much tied to his excellent play in the back. If he has a good game, he could make the jump and compete with the elite Juventus trio of Chiellini, Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli (the only of the three on the roster this time around) for playing time.