Watch: Roberto Mancini hints at Italy return for Mario Balotelli

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Mario Balotelli

New Italy boss Roberto Mancini has hinted that his first squad could feature a familiar face from his title-winning sides at both Manchester City and Inter Milan, Mario Balotelli.

The 27-year-old has not played for Italy since the 2014 World Cup, but has rebuilt his reputation with Nice in Ligue 1 after difficult spells with Liverpool and AC Milan.

“Even in difficult times, Italy can boast of having players of great quality,” Mancini said. “I will certainly speak to Balotelli.”

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Watch: Neymar praised as Tite labels Brazil World Cup favourites

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Striker Neymar, who hasn’t played since injury in February, was named Monday as the star of a Brazilian team that coach Tite said has a good chance of winning the World Cup in Russia.

“Brazil is one of the favorites given the football it has shown, given its consistency,” Tite said at the team announcement in Rio de Janeiro.

He said the national team, seeking a record sixth championship, stands out for being “aggressive, scoring goals.”

“That’s not being arrogant, it’s just telling the truth,” Tite said.

Neymar’s returning form will be a key factor. He has been out since requiring surgery for a broken bone in his foot while playing for Paris Saint-Germain, and is only now easing back into training.

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Mexico, USA not to feature as CONMEBOL announces Copa America 2019

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The CONMEBOL confirmed on Friday that for the first time since 1991, Mexico will not be taking part in the Copa America.

The Copa America 2019 is set to take place in Brazil and the local organising committee is finalising the cities and stadiums which will host the matches. The tournament will feature 12 teams.

While the competition is South America’s championship, it does feature two invited guests, one of which has been Mexico for the last nine years.

The relationship between the Mexico federation and its counterpart in South America has suffered in the last few years though. Mexico also pulled out of the Copa Llibertadores stating that it had difficulties in fitting the tournament in to the Mexican calendar.

Meanwhile, it has tried to initiate a partnership with Major League Soccer, for a game between the champions of both the leagues and an idea of a tournament in the future.

Stating in a pres release, CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez said – “The 2019 Copa America Brazil will be a passionate competition in which anyone can win the title.”

“In addition to having the participation of the national teams from our 10 member associations, we’re once again welcoming the Japan national team, whose association we have a close link of friendship and good relationship with.

“And, for the first time, we’ll have the participation of the Qatar national team, which will be the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”

The two invited guests who have already accepted invitations include – Japan and Qatar.

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