Prandelli ready to bench Mario

Azzurri coach set to pick Di Natale ahead of Manchester City man

Cesare Prandelli: The head coach believes Mario Balotelli is still maturing

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Italy head coach Cesare Prandelli has admitted he could leave Mario Balotelli on the bench in favour of Antonio Di Natale against Croatia.

The Azzurri claimed a 1-1 draw with holders Spain in their Euro 2012 Group C opener with the Udinese hitman hitting the target.

Balotelli has come under criticism after a disappointing display in the game, with the Manchester City forward having missed a golden chance to put the them ahead.

Di Natale, who finished as the top Italian scorer in Serie A this season, replaced Balotelli before the hour mark and made an immediate impact.

"Mario is 21 and he is in the process of maturing," Prandelli said. "All I ask him is to play a simple game without thinking of trying to resolve a game alone.

"He needs to think of giving depth to our game. He did a little bit of that against Spain.

"For the first time he has to prove to everyone the potential that he is said to have and for sure he feels more responsibility."

Crucial

Italy now face a Croatian side on a high following their comprehensive victory against the Republic of Ireland.

And Prandelli believes the clash is vital to their hopes of advancing to the quarter-finals of the competition.

However, he has warned his players not to get carried away by their positive start to the tournament and expects a tough encounter.

"The game against Croatia will be the crucial game of the group," the former Fiorentina coach said. "I expect a very complicated game.

"Our aim is to win because I reiterate that this is a key match.

"Croatia is a more dangerous side than Spain because it is unpredictable. We will study Croatia although they change the way the play throughout the game.

"Croatia's performance against Ireland confirmed what we already thought for some time, that Croatia is a strong side."