WARSAW, POLAND – Italy midfielder Thiago Motta believes Mario Balotelli will be an influential figure for the Azzurri at Euro 2012.
Paris St Germain midfielder Motta knows just what to expect from Balotelli - the pair were Inter Milan team-mates in the 2009/10 season - and reckons the volatile Manchester City striker could have a big role to play in Poland and Ukraine.
"We need Balotelli to work for the team, and to show responsibility," Motta said as Cesare Prandelli's squad continued preparations in Krakow for their opening match of the tournament against defending champions Spain on Sunday.
"Only like that can he make the difference, and I'm sure he will. He must help us, especially on the pitch because, off it, he can be the same as always.
"Balotelli makes me just as angry now with his jokes as he did when he was at Inter. But away from the pitch he is a good lad."
Motta, meanwhile, accepts the Italy squad need to regroup, having endured a difficult time recently.
A match-fixing scandal disrupted their build-up, with Prandelli forced to drop Zenit St Petersburg defender Domenico Criscito from the squad as he is under investigation.
Moreover, last week's friendly against Luxembourg in Parma was cancelled because of an earthquake in northern Italy.
Last Friday's 3-0 defeat to Russia - Italy's last test ahead of the Euros- was the Azzurri's third straight friendly loss.
"It's normal that after three straight defeats you are worried," Motta said. "But the mentality of the team will be crucial.
"We need to help each other out and be generous. It is important to have the will and the mentality to win. We have quality players that can play in any team in the world. If we are able to play as a group, we can fight against anyone."
Italy went undefeated in the qualifying campaign and conceded just two goals in nine games.
They could hardly face a trickier opener to the competition than a clash with Spain, but Motta is focusing only on Italy rather than getting overawed about playing the world's number one team.
"I don't think Spain are less strong than in the past, even though (Carles) Puyol and (David) Villa are out injured," said Motta, who played seven seasons in the Primera Division with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid before moving to Serie A.
"Against Spain what matters is the win. Then, if we play well, that is optional.
"Obviously it would be better to win playing good football. We just have to focus on ourselves."
Italy will also play against Croatia and the Republic of Ireland in Group C.