Despite his strong form with Nice, Mario Balotelli remained excluded from Italy's squad for friendlies against Argentina and England.

By Associated Press
March 17, 2018

ROME (AP) Patrick Cutrone and Federico Chiesa, both 20-year-old forwards, have received their first call-ups to Italy's squad for friendlies against Argentina and England.

Mario Balotelli remained excluded despite his strong form with Nice.

Italy faces Argentina on Friday in Manchester, England, then plays England in London four days later.

Italy will play its first game since a playoff loss to Sweden in November excluded the Azzurri from the World Cup for the first time in six decades.

Under-21 coach Luigi Di Biagio will make his senior squad debut on a caretaker basis after Gian Piero Ventura was fired.

Captain Gianluigi Buffon is back in the squad, having nixed his retirement plans announced immediately after the playoff.

Cutrone has developed into a reliable scorer for AC Milan this season while Chiesa, the son of former Italy forward Enrico Chiesa, has shown off his versatility at Fiorentina, where he has also played in an attacking midfield position.

Balotelli has scored 22 goals in 30 matches in all competitions for Nice this season. Still, the temperamental forward hasn't played for Italy since the 2014 World Cup.

Italy:

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan), Mattia Perin (Genoa).

Defenders: Leonardo Bonucci (AC Milan), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Matteo Darmian (Manchester United), Mattia De Sciglio (Juventus), Gian Marco Ferrari (Sampdoria), Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), Daniele Rugani (Juventus), Leonardo Spinazzola (Atalanta), Davide Zappacosta (Chelsea).

Midfielders: Giacomo Bonaventura (AC Milan), Bryan Cristante (Atalanta), Roberto Gagliardini (Inter Milan), Jorginho (Napoli), Marco Parolo (Lazio), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain).

Forwards: Andrea Belotti (Torino), Antonio Candreva (Inter Milan), Patrick Cutrone (AC Milan), Federico Chiesa (Fiorentina), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Simone Verdi (Bologna)

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