Mario Balotelli withdraws from Italy squad with lower back injury

FLORENCE, Italy (AP) — Mario Balotelli and Angelo Ogbonna have withdrawn from the Italian squad ahead of games against Croatia and Albania.

Balotelli had been called up for the first time under Antonio Conte, despite his poor form, but the Liverpool striker strained his lower back and adductor muscles.

Ogbonna has a left hamstring injury and medical staff decided not to risk the Juventus defender.

It is a blow for Conte, with fellow defender Leonardo Bonucci suspended against Croatia.

Italy plays Croatia in a key European Championship qualifier on Sunday at San Siro — where Balotelli formerly played for both Inter and AC Milan.

Italy and Croatia both top the group with nine points.

The Azzurri then travel to Genoa for a friendly match against Albania on Tuesday.

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