MANGARATIBA, Brazil (AP) — Italy faces England in five days at the World Cup and all of a sudden Mario Balotelli is no longer a sure starter for the Azzurri.
Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne combined for all five goals when Italy beat Brazilian club Fluminense in a World Cup warm-up match Sunday, whereas Balotelli hasn't scored for the national team since October.
"Clearly we have some healthy competition up front," coach Cesare Prandelli said Monday. "Everyone has a chance. Whoever doesn't play will have to accept the choices. ... Potentially there could be a lot of stars in this squad."
Two years ago, Balotelli's goals helped Italy reach the final of the European Championship. But the temperamental forward is coming off an inconsistent season with AC Milan, while Immobile led Serie A with 22 goals for Torino then signed with German power Borussia Dortmund a few days before flying to Brazil.
"Goals are always important, even when you score them in training," Immobile said. "I'm working as hard as I can and if I get the chance I'll be ready. The coach makes the decisions and we just need to make our contributions — whether that's from the bench or from the start we need to give our all."
One thing that appears for sure is that Balotelli and Immobile will not play together.
"Anything is possible but having two center forwards with so many quality midfielders would be forcing things a bit," Prandelli said. "Anyhow, I'm going to choose on the basis of how we want to face the (opponent) and how the players are physically and psychologically."
The England game will be played amid thick humidity in the jungle city of Manaus, so physical fitness will be a key factor.