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Former Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli insists that England aren’t a major contender to win the World Cup this summer.
The Italy striker will come face-to-face with England on June 14 when the two teams meet in Group D in Manaus.
Balotelli has shown his potential while playing for the Azzurri in recent years and he will be hoping to break the hearts of England fans next month.
Although Balotelli concedes England have a few stars, he is confident they can win the first game, while claiming the Three Lions will struggle in South America.
“In the opening game we have to respect England because it is important to get off to a good start. They have maybe two or three players who can hurt us, but we feel well prepared for the tournament and expect to start off with a win,” he said.
“I don’t look at England as a team that can win the World Cup. They have some good players, but they are no real rivals for Italy.
“I am not saying that Italy are favourites, but we have the mentality and experienced players to surprise people – I don’t think England have that.
“We have players who have won the World Cup, I don’t think England have a player who knows what it is like to play past the quarter-final.”
Both England and Italy will need to get past Uruguay and Costa Rica to ensure they reach the knockout stages, with Cesare Prandelli’s men available at 2.55 to win Group D.