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Motta goal silences critics of Italy's foreign legion

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LJUBLJANA (Reuters) -- Thiago Motta's goal in Saturday's Euro 2012 qualifying win in Slovenia will temporarily silence critics of Italy's policy of recruiting foreign-born players but the fact they are needed still speaks volumes.

Brazil-born Motta struck his first international goal in only his second Italy appearance on 73 minutes to give Italy side a 1-0 victory and send them six points clear at the top of Group C.

Proud patriotic pundits have bemoaned Cesare Prandelli for resorting to using Motta, fellow Brazil-born Amauri and Argentina-born Cristian Ledesma but the coach has said he has little option given the dearth of young talent in Serie A.

Italian soccer officials are even considering launching an under-21 club side in the second tier so that young players can play regularly instead of being squeezed out in Serie A by foreigners and managers cautious over throwing in youngsters.

Motta's case is all the more controversial because he played for Brazil in the 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup. That side was deemed to be an invited under-23 team so when Italy's senior team enquired about calling up Inter Milan's Motta, FIFA said yes.

"I have to thank everyone who let me arrive at this point," Motta told reporters.

"I respect everyone's opinions, everybody can say what they like. When I go on the pitch I think about enjoying myself. I forget about everything else."

The skilful former Barcelona midfielder was roundly applauded by Italy's small contingent of travelling fans.

"It was impossible to imagine it better than that," Motta said of the cheers. "I played and won in a strong Italy team which had personality before and didn't need me to bring it."

Italy's star has fallen so much since their fourth World Cup triumph in 2006 that Motta, 28, is badly needed to add verve to their midfield even if striker Amauri and playmaker Ledesma are not in Prandelli's current squad.

The Azzurri next visit Ukraine for a friendly on Tuesday.