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Balotelli misses out as Conte names Italy squad

Italy coach Antonio Conte left Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli on the sidelines again as he named a 26-man squad for upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers against Azerbaijan and Malta.

Balotelli misses out as Conte names Italy squad

Italy, who crashed out of the World Cup at the first round for the second successive time last summer, began their Euro campaign with a 2 0 win over Norway last month.

Balotelli had been left out of Conte's squad for the trip to Oslo and, amid a mitigated start at Anfield for the former Milan striker, and he has once again been left on the sidelines.

Former Juventus handler Conte, who succeeded Cesare Prandelli as Azzurri coach after the World Cup, handed Southampton striker Graziano Pelle his first call-up among a front line which also includes Simone Zaza — who scored Italy's opener against Norway — Sebastian Giovinco, Mattia Destro, Pablo Osvaldo and Ciro Immobile.

The other big surprise to the squad is the inclusion of 20-year-old Empoli defender Daniele Rugani among a backline which includes established names like Juve trio Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Angelo Ogbonna as well as Inter's Andrea Ranocchia.

Fiorentina's Alberto Aquilani, meanwhile, has been named among a star-packed midfield which notably features Antonio Candreva, Alessandro Florenzi, Claudio Marchisio, Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti.

Italy host Azerbaijan in Palermo on October 10 before facing Malta away four days later.

Italy squad for upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers:

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Mattia Perin (Genoa), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris Saint Germain). Defenders: Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Angelo Ogbonna (Juventus), Andrea Ranocchia (Inter), Daniele Rugani (Empoli)

Midfield: Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina), Giacomo Bonaventura (Milan), Antonio Candreva (Lazio), Matteo Darmian (Torino), Mattia De Sciglio (Milan), Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Macro Parolo (Lazio), Manuel Pasqual (Fiorentina), Andrea Poli (Milan), Thiago Motta (Paris Saint Germain), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint Germain)

Strikers: Mattia Destro (Roma), Sebastian Giovinco (Juventus), Ciro Immobile (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Pablo Daniel Osvaldo (Inter), Graziano Pelle (Southampton/ENG), Simone Zaza (Sassuolo)

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FOOTBALL

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players’ ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome

Italy’s national football team reportedly insisted on taking an open-top bus tour through Rome to show off their European Championship trophy to crowds of fans - despite city authorities forbidding it amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players' ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The team’s bus parade through the city on Monday night following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorised”, according to Matteo Piantedosi the head of Rome’s prefettura (the public safety authority).

Thousands of fans packed the streets of central Rome to see the team celebrate their cup win after beating England on penalties in the final.

READ ALSO: ‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Piantedosi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday: “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected.”

Piantedosi, who is Rome’s top public security official, said police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A meeting had been held on Friday with the Italian football federation (FIGC) to discuss plans for the celebrations if Italy won, said Piantedosi.

“I had agreed the line with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Chief of Police Lamberto Giannini,” he said.

“It was clearly explained that [the parade] was not possible. We said we could not authorize it.”

Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade.

After players insisted on the bus tour on Monday however, Piantedosi said, authorities reluctantly let them go ahead due to fears of sparking public disorder.

“At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid cases on the rise in Europe once again as WHO warns of Euro 2020 risk

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday, the FIGC said it had acted responsibly but decided not to disappoint fans who had come to celebrate with the team.

Footage of large crowds thronging the bus carrying the ‘Azzurri’ and the European Championship trophy through the capital however fuelled concerns about new outbreaks of coronavirus, after Italy’s infection rate began to rise again last week.

The World Health Organization warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns on Monday about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events.

He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” but “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat Covid is not yet won.”

There are currently minimal health restrictions in place across Italy, however masks are supposed to be worn in crowded public places, including outdoors.

“Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi.

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