Balotelli jibe will help England, says Gary Lim
Italy striker's latest comments will be music to the ears of the English players
Mario Balotelli does what he wants, as the popular football chant goes.
But, in the latest episode of the Italian striker's long-running series of wisecracks, his words may come back to bite him hard.
England no match for Italy?
Whatever he's on, Balotelli is setting himself up for an embarrassing own goal.
Obviously, he's entitled to his opinion, but football is littered with examples of players and managers being left with egg on their faces after being proven wrong.
England kick off their 2014 World Cup campaign against Italy in Manaus, Brazil, on June 14.
Roy Hodgson could well be writing Balotelli a thank-you card for helping him motivate his English troops ahead of the clash.
In a recent interview, Balotelli told the Daily Mail: "I don't look at England as a team that can win the World Cup.
"They have some good players, but they are no real rivals for Italy."
Balotelli has every right to feel confident.
He was part of the Italy side that beat England in a Euro 2012 quarter-final match on penalties, en route to the final where they lost to Spain.
But to dismiss England's chances so emphatically sounds like a suicide plan.
The Three Lions go into the World Cup with little pressure.
Among those Hodgson will take with him to Brazil are a new generation of English stars who don't carry the baggage of previous international failure.
And unlike their predecessors, who usually entered World Cups and European Championships believing the hype claiming they were contenders, this group led by Steven Gerrard have been written off.
And they are as enterprising a line-up as any England have seen since Euro 2004.
The refreshing success of Liverpool, Everton and Southampton, all of whom earned plaudits for their swashbuckling football last season, bodes well for the national team.
Hodgson's England have hungry young talent and speed merchants in attack who can terrify the best defenders, including Italy's uncompromising backline.
Hodgson has picked 11 players from the two Merseyside sides and the Saints in his squad of 23 - Glen Johnson, Raheem Sterling, Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool); Leighton Baines, Phil Jagielka, Ross Barkley (Everton); Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert (Southampton).
Many believe more than half of England's starting 11 will come from this group of players.
The form of midfielders Barkley and Sterling, in particular, could give England's attack an edge that could make them dangerous.
Jagielka and Chelsea's Gary Cahill form a reliable central defensive partnership, while at the other end, the combination of Sturridge and Wayne Rooney is a mouth-watering prospect.
With the likes of Frank Lampard, James Milner, Gerrard and Rooney to provide guidance, Hodgson does have a very competitive side.
This World Cup may have come too soon for this England team to lift the trophy.
But they definitely have the quality to give any team a tough test.
Come June 14, Balotelli may be in for a surprise. His remarks were unnecessary and silly, and it has provided the best motivational tool for Hodgson.
I can just imagine Balotelli's quotes being repeated time and again by the English before their Italy opener.
But then again, this is Balotelli,
So no one is ever surprised.
I don’t look at England as a team that can win the World Cup. They have some good players, but they are no real rivals for Italy. I am not saying that Italy are favourites, but we have the mentality and experienced players to surprise people. I don’t think England have that. We have players who have won the World Cup. I don’t think England have a player who knows what it is like to play past the quarter-finals.
— Mario Balotelli writing off England’s chances
For the England game, we are stronger, we have the better weapons.
— Former Italy coach Marcello Lippi, who is now coach of Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande
'Prandelli will get it right'
Riccardo Montolivo believes Italy coach Cesare Prandelli's attention to detail will get his spluttering side back on track in time for the World Cup.
With Italy's World Cup opener against England in Manaus just two weeks away, Prandelli's team could do with a morale-boosting victory when they face the Republic of Ireland in a friendly at Fulham's Craven Cottage tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
The Italians are without a win in five matches since last September after four draws, two at the end of World Cup qualifying campaign and two in friendlies, and a defeat by Spain in their previous warm-up fixture in March.
The four-time world champions need to put an end to that disappointing run to alleviate any fears of a repeat of the dismal 2010 World Cup campaign, when Marcello Lippi's team crashed out at the group stages without a single victory.
Prandelli's players shouldn't be lacking motivation at Craven Cottage because the Azzurri coach is yet to cut his provisional 30-man party down to the final 23-man squad that will travel to Brazil.
And AC Milan midfielder Montolivo insists the squad aren't starting to panic about a potential World Cup collapse thanks to Prandelli's composed demeanour and rigorous work ethic.
"Prandelli pays even more attention to detail in respect to the past," Montolivo said. "He is leaving nothing to chance and because of this, I think he seems at ease.
"He is doing everything possible in order for us to be ready. If someone meets a challenge by being ready and relaxed, he can give his best."
Prandelli, 56, has every reason to be relaxed around his players because his own future was secured when he signed a contract extension on Monday, which will keep him in the job beyond the European Championship in 2016.
Italy, who finished as runners-up at Euro 2012, swept through an unbeaten World Cup qualifying campaign, setting up group -stage fixtures against England, Costa Rica and Uruguay in Brazil.
And despite their recent struggles, Milan captain Montolivo is convinced Italy will prove dangerous dark horses in Brazil.
"Brazil, Spain and Germany are a step ahead of everyone else," he said. "But then there is a second group of teams and that is where Italy are.
"I really hope it can be us who are the surprise package. We are here and now we need to work to get to the deep end of the tournament - that is everyone's dream.
"We are a strong team and, if we play how we can, we can cause problems for anyone." - AFP.
We’re in a particularly difficult group and England go into the World Cup with five or six players who have had incredible seasons.
— Italy coach Cesare Prandelli