MILAN (Reuters) – Italy called up forward Sebastian Giovinco for the first time in almost three years on Friday as coach Roberto Mancini announced a 28-man squad which did not feature striker Mario Balotelli for next week’s games against Ukraine and Poland.
Former Juventus player Giovinco has one international goal to his name and made his last appearance for Italy in a European Championship qualifier against Norway in October 2015, the year he moved to Major League Soccer’s Toronto FC.
The 31-year-old’s form across the Atlantic could no longer be ignored, with Giovinco scoring 82 goals in 139 appearances in all competitions for Toronto who won the MLS Cup last year.
Balotelli misses out despite having been in Mancini’s previous two squads. The 28-year-old Nice forward has struggled for form in Ligue 1 this season and was dropped by his club manager Patrick Vieira for Friday’s match against Toulouse.
Mancini also welcomed back Lazio defender Francesco Acerbi, who was last called up in March 2016, while Sampdoria forward Gianluca Caprari was included in the squad for the first time.
Since being appointed in May the former Inter Milan and Manchester City coach has sought to revive Italy’s fortunes after they failed to reach this year’s World Cup in Russia.
The four-times world champions take on Ukraine in a friendly in Genoa on Wednesday, before travelling to Poland for a Nations League fixture four days later.
The Italians have one point from two Nations League games after a 1-1 home draw with Poland and 1-0 defeat in Portugal.
Goalkeepers: Alessio Cragno (Cagliari), Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan), Mattia Perin (Juventus), Salvatore Sirigu (Torino)
Defenders: Francesco Acerbi (Lazio), Cristiano Biraghi (Fiorentina), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Domenico Criscito (Genoa), Danilo D’Ambrosio (Inter), Emerson Palmieri (Chelsea), Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), Alessio Romagnoli (Milan)
Midfielders: Nicolo Barella (Cagliari), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Giacomo Bonaventura (Milan), Roberto Gagliardini (Inter), Jorginho (Chelsea), Lorenzo Pellegrini (AS Roma), Marco Verratti (Paris St Germain)
Forwards: Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Gianluca Caprari (Sampdoria), Federico Chiesa (Fiorentina), Patrick Cutrone (Milan), Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Simone Zaza (Torino)
(Reporting by Christian Radnedge; Editing by Ken Ferris)