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Prandelli: Balotelli has always behaved well for Italy

The Azzurri coach insists he has no doubts over either the temperament or the talent of the 23-year-old attacker, who is coming off the back of a turbulent season with AC Milan

Italy boss Cesare Prandelli has leapt to the defence of Mario Balotelli, pointing out that the under-fire forward has always served his country well.

The AC Milan striker is expected to lead the Azzurri attack at this summer's World Cup - despite ongoing doubts over his temperament after a turbulent Serie A season in which he broke down in tears after being substituted in a game against Napoli and lashed out at TV pundits during an interview after a loss at Roma.

Balotelli has also had to endure racist abuse - even while on Italy duty at Coverciano - and some wonder how he might react if he is subjected to such heinous treatment on or off the field in Brazil.

However, Prandelli has no doubts about the 23-year-old, either in terms of his talent or his temperament.

"In terms of the national team, he has never behaved outside of the rules," the Italy boss told Mediaset. "He has played great games and he has a very high goal average.

"I rate him for what he has done and what he is doing in the Azzurri jersey.

"Mario knows that the World Cup can be the turning point in the life of a footballer.

"I hope that in these days of preparing he has realised that he will have to endure a lot of provocation.

"If he arrives prepared [for it], he can do very well."

Balotelli has netted 12 times in 29 appearances for Italy, including a famous double in the semi-final victory over Germany at Euro 2012.

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