x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Round-up: Pressure on Balotelli is too great, says Italian football federation president

Mario Balotelli is tired of being in the eye of a storm, while France believe the seeding system is unfair for the Uefa World Cup qualifying play-offs in November and plan to ask Fifa to review it ahead of next week’s draw.

Italy forward Mario Balotelli arrives in Naples. Ciro Fusco / EPA
Italy forward Mario Balotelli arrives in Naples. Ciro Fusco / EPA

NAPLES, ITALY // Mario Balotelli is tired of being in the eye of a storm, the president of the Italian football federation said after the maverick international became embroiled in another controversy.

“It’s a demanding period for Mario and we have to understand the media pressure on him is excessive,” Giancarlo Abete told RAI radio yesterday, a day after the AC Milan forward allegedly pushed away a television camera during a media scrum at the Naples railway station.

“He can’t take one step, or write one word, without it being interpreted in any number of different ways. He’s a bit tired of always being in the eye of the cyclone.

“He’s a 23-year-old lad who needs to grow and improve but the pressure on him is too great.”

There were chaotic scenes as Italy arrived in Naples by high-speed train on Sunday for their World Cup qualifier at home to Armenia Tuesday.

The squad were greeted by a media scramble at the station and Balotelli appeared to push away a TV camera after it apparently clipped him on the arm as he walked by.

The striker, who missed Friday’s 2-2 draw in Denmark due to illness, is serving a three-match domestic ban after insulting the referee at the end of the 2-1 home defeat by Napoli. Italy have already qualified for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Uruguay coach Tabarez defends ‘worthy route’ of reaching Brazil

Uruguay have all but resigned themselves to the idea they will finish fifth in South America qualifying and need to beat Jordan in a two-leg play-off to reach Brazil 2014, even if they beat Argentina Tuesday.

Uruguay have found themselves in this position in the previous three World Cup campaigns, as well, qualifying in 2002 and 2010.

“I don’t share the view that the play-off is an unworthy route to reach the World Cup,” said coach Oscar Tabarez.

“We’re not going to the World Cup through the window or the back door.”

Seeding system flawed says France Federation president as play-offs likely to pair them with a top-ranked team

France believe the seeding system is unfair for the Uefa World Cup qualifying play-offs in November and plan to ask Fifa to review it ahead of next week’s draw.

Spain are three points ahead of France in Group I and host Georgia in their final qualifier Tuesday, when second-placed France, who look certain to go through to the play-offs, entertain Finland.

The play-off seeds will be determined by Fifa rankings. France are ranked No 25 and face a likely home-and-away clash with another major footballing nation. They believe the system is flawed because fewer ranking points were available in the five-nation Group I while the other sections all contained six teams.

“We’re going to contact Fifa,” the French Federation president Noel Le Graet told radio station RMC.

“There is a little injustice between the group of five and the groups of six. Our rivals from other groups have been able to score more points … That’s a fact.”