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Irish defender is familiar with the Italian striker whom he will likely square up against at Euro 2012 when the two nations meet

John O'Shea has dubbed Mario Balotelli a 'handful' who can easily be upset on the pitch ahead of Ireland's match with Italy in Group C at Euro 2012.

In an interview with Hot Press magazine the versatile Sunderland player said: "I've played against Balotelli a few times; the first being for (Man) United against Inter Milan. He was obviously a little bit younger then but already a bit of an, er, handful physically and mentally.

"He's a talented lad but you can easily upset him," said the Waterford native.

The Boys in Green play the Azzurri in their final group game on June 18 in what could likely decide the fate of both nations' chances. O'Shea said he will try and test Balotelli's famously short temper in the clash in Poznan.

"If you see he's getting upset you might in and tackle him hard and hard again straight away. If the situation's there you exploit, but only, I hasten to add, within the rules of the game.

"The last thing you want as a defender is to pick up a yellow card and the referees in Poland and Ukraine are going to be far fussier than their Premier League counterparts," added O'Shea.

Before the showdown with Italy the Irish side will take on Croatia and then world champions Spain. O'Shea talked up Ireland's chances of taking on and beating their three group opponents.

"Any team with Modric, Krancjar and da Silva in it is capable of scoring goals. I don't know if he'll start but Jelavic was a monster for Everton against Sunderland in both the cup and league.

"We'll treat them with just as much respect as the other sides in the group, but not fear. Like I say, we've the beating of all three."

O'Shea's participation in Euro 2012 had been considered at risk due to an ankle injury but has since returned to training and is likely to feature against Hungary in Monday's friendly.