Italy defender Andrea Barzagli has tipped Mario Balotelli to be the star of the 2014 World Cup ahead of Neymar, prompted by his international teammate's display against Brazil on Thursday.
Cesare Prandelli's men had found themselves 2-0 down to the Selecao before Balotelli struck a superb equalizer to cap a fightback, leading Barzagli to claim he believed the striker to be a more complete player than his Santos counterpart.
"Who seems to be more ready to become the star at the next World Cup? For me, Balotelli is more ready, because he already has had important experiences," the Juventus stopper told La Stampa. "Neymar is a phenomenon and only lacks European experience to be the best, but as I mentioned, Balotelli is proving to be more ready at this point."
Following their credible draw, the Azzurri now travel to Malta for their World Cup qualifier, and Barzagli has called for the squad to maintain similar focus against the relative European minnows.
"We did well against Brazil, but now we need to keep up that attitude against Malta," the 2006 World Cup winner insisted.
"It will be a difficult match, and we cannot afford to lose momentum for the three points then."
Lazio custodian Federico Marchetti is an injury doubt for Tuesday after Giorgio Chiellini pulled out of the squad earlier this week, but Claudio Marchisio and Ignazio Abate are newly expected to be at Prandelli's disposal.
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- Cesare Prandelli