Italy will face Spain in the semifinals without AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli.
Italy will face Spain in the semifinals without AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli.
Antonio Calanni/AP

FORTALEZA, Brazil (AP) -- Mario Balotelli was sent home from the Confederations Cup on Monday due to a strained thigh, leaving Italy without its top striker for both the semifinal vs. Spain and the final or third-place match.

Having already been ruled out of Thursday's semifinal, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli decided to send Balotelli home after consulting with team physician Enrico Castellacci.

"He's obviously very upset but there's just not enough time for him to return,'' Prandelli said. "We just used good sense.''

Balotelli injured his left quadriceps during Italy's 4-2 loss to Brazil on Saturday.

Castellacci said that AC Milan's medical staff will take over treatment.

"I checked out Balotelli this morning and, considering his condition, I don't think he will be able to recuperate before the final,'' Castellacci said. "It's not worth taking more risks.''

Balotelli is the second Italy player sent home since the Brazil match, with fullback Ignazio Abate - who also plays for Milan - having left Sunday with a dislocated right shoulder.

Meanwhile, midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who sat out Saturday's match with Brazil due to a muscle problem, continued to train separately from the rest of the squad.

"Pirlo continues to work out and we're optimistic but we need to evaluate him day by day and we won't decide whether he can play until the last minute,'' Castellacci said.

In a bit of positive news, midfielder Riccardo Montolivo has fully recuperated from a knock to the head and trained regularly Monday.

Alberto Gilardino would seem to be Balotelli's logical replacement if Prandelli sticks with his single-striker lineup. Or he could use several forwards such as Emanuele Giaccherini, Stephan El Shaarawy, Sebastian Giovinco, Alessio Cerci or Alessandro Diamanti.

"Without Mario we'll have to work much more collectively so we'll work more on that,'' Prandelli said. "We have a few problems but the squad is responding well despite the difficulties.''

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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