Italy 2-1 Saudi Arabia: Mario Balotelli scores on first 1st start in four years as Roberto Mancini claims victory 1st game

  • Mario Balotelli returned with a bang for Italy after a four-year absence
  • His first-half goal set the tone for a friendly victory over Saudi Arabia in St Gallen
  • Substitute Andrea Belotti and Yahya Al-Shehri exchanged goals after the break 

Mario Balotelli returned to Italy duty with a bang following a four-year absence as his first-half goal set the tone for a friendly victory over Saudi Arabia in St Gallen.

The 27-year-old striker, who last featured for the Azzurri at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, was recalled by new Italy boss Roberto Mancini after scoring 26 goals for Nice this season.

He dug out an emphatic opener to assert Italy’s authority over Saudi Arabia – even if it is the Green Falcons and not Italy who will compete in Russia following the Europeans’ failed qualifying campaign.

Mario Balotelli rifles homer from outside the box for his first Italy goal in nearly four years

Mario Balotelli rifles homer from outside the box for his first Italy goal in nearly four years

The Nice striker was making his first start for his country since the 2014 World Cup

The Nice striker was making his first start for his country since the 2014 World Cup

Balotelli is mobbed by team-mates after giving them the lead against Saudi Arabia on Monday

Substitute Andrea Belotti and Yahya Al-Shehri exchanged goals after the break, but Italy were triumphant come the final whistle in Switzerland.

Balotelli, who spent two of his years of exile from the Italy set-up on the books at Liverpool, got straight into the action, heading narrowly wide before setting Alessandro Florenzi up for an attempt.

 

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