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Balotelli starts in first Italy appearance for four years

2:51 AM GMT+8 29/05/2018
Mario Balotelli - cropped
The striker was handed an instant recall by his old club mentor Roberto Mancini for the match against Saudi Arabia

Mario Balotelli will make his first Italy appearance since the 2014 World Cup after being named in the starting XI against Saudi Arabia in new head coach Roberto Mancini's first match in charge.

Balotelli's most recent Azzurri appearance came in the 1-0 loss to Uruguay in Group D of the tournament in Brazil, where Italy joined England in failing to progress to the knockout stages.

The striker has endured four years in the international wilderness after being overlooked by Antonio Conte, Gian Piero Ventura and recent caretaker Luigi Di Biagio.

However, the appointment of Balotelli's former Inter and Manchester City boss Mancini has heralded a change in fortunes for the 27-year-old centre-forward.

After lacking playing time and struggling for goals at AC Milan and Liverpool in recent years, Balotelli has enjoyed two prolific campaigns in Ligue 1 with Nice, hitting the back of the net 15 times in 2016-17 and scoring 18 goals this season.

He has been named in the Italy team from kick-off for the friendly in St Gallen, Switzerland, where Sassuolo winger Matteo Politano will make his senior debut.

After Conte guided the team to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia under Ventura's tenure.