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Balotelli back in Italy squad after 3-year absence

Italy's Mario Balotelli prior to the start of the friendly soccer match between Saudi Arabia and Italy at Kybunpark Stadium, in St. Gallen, Switzerland, May 28, 2018. Mario Balotelli is back in the Italy squad more than three years after his last appearance in an Azzurri shirt. Italy coach Roberto Mancini included the striker in a 35-man squad announced Monday Jan. 24, 2022, for a three-day training camp this week, ahead of the World Cup playoffs in March. (Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP, File)

FLORENCE, Italy (AP) — Mario Balotelli is back in the Italy squad more than three years after his last appearance in an Azzurri shirt.

Italy coach Roberto Mancini included the striker in a 35-man squad announced Monday for a three-day training camp this week, ahead of the World Cup playoffs in March.

The 31-year-old Balotelli made the last of his 36 international appearances in a 1-1 draw against Poland in the Nations League in September 2018.

Balotelli is playing for Turkish side Adana Demirspor, where he has scored eight goals in 19 league appearances.

Mancini knows Balotelli well, having worked with him at Inter Milan and Manchester City, and Italy has lacked a consistent goalscorer, with Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti struggling to replicate their club form on the international stage.

The training camp will take place between Wednesday and Friday. Seven players received their first international call-ups: goalkeeper Marco Carnesecchi, defenders Luiz Felipe and Giorgio Scalvini, midfielders Nicolò Fagioli, Davide Frattesi and Samuele Ricci and forward João Pedro.

European champion Italy hosts North Macedonia in the World Cup qualifying playoffs on March 24. The winner advances to play at Portugal or Turkey five days later.

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Squad:

Goalkeepers: Marco Carnesecchi (Cremonese), Alessio Cragno (Cagliari), Alex Meret (Napoli), Salvatore Sirigu (Genoa).

Defenders: Alessandro Bastoni (Inter Milan), Cristiano Biraghi (Fiorentina), Davide Calabria (AC Milan), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Mattia De Sciglio (Juventus), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Alessandro Florenzi (AC Milan), Luiz Felipe (Lazio), Gianluca Mancini (Roma), Luca Pellegrini (Juventus), Giorgio Scalvini (Atalanta), Rafael Tolói (Atalanta).

Midfielders: Nicolò Barella (Inter Milan), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Nicolò Fagioli (Cremonese), Davide Frattesi (Sassuolo), Manuel Locatelli (Juventus), Matteo Pessina (Atalanta), Samuele Ricci (Empoli), Stefano Sensi (Inter Milan), Sandro Tonali (AC Milan).

Forwards: Mario Balotelli (Adana Demirspor), Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), João Pedro (Cagliari), Giacomo Raspadori (Sassuolo), Gianluca Scamacca (Sassuolo), Mattia Zaccagni (Lazio), Nicolò Zaniolo (Roma).

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