Sports

Explaining Balotelli's surprise Italy call up, Conte sees a positive in struggles at Liverpool

  • Liverpool's Mario Balotelli, center, fights for the ball against Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield Stadium, Liverpool, England, Saturday Nov. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

    Liverpool's Mario Balotelli, center, fights for the ball against Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield Stadium, Liverpool, England, Saturday Nov. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Jon Super)  (The Associated Press)

  • Liverpool's Mario Balotelli, right, keeps the ball from Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield Stadium, Liverpool, England, Saturday Nov. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

    Liverpool's Mario Balotelli, right, keeps the ball from Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas during the English Premier League soccer match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield Stadium, Liverpool, England, Saturday Nov. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Jon Super)  (The Associated Press)

  • Italian national soccer team's Mario Balotelli attends a training session with the team at the Coverciano Training Center, near Florence, central Italy, Monday, Nov.10, 2014. Italy will play Croatia in Milan on Sunday in a Euro2016, Group H, qualifying round soccer match. (AP Photo/Fabrizio Giovannozzi)

    Italian national soccer team's Mario Balotelli attends a training session with the team at the Coverciano Training Center, near Florence, central Italy, Monday, Nov.10, 2014. Italy will play Croatia in Milan on Sunday in a Euro2016, Group H, qualifying round soccer match. (AP Photo/Fabrizio Giovannozzi)  (The Associated Press)

Perhaps Mario Balotelli's struggles with Liverpool will have a positive effect on his return to Italy's squad.

That's what Azzurri coach Antonio Conte is hoping for after giving Balotelli a call up for a key European Championship qualifier against Croatia on Sunday.

It's the first time Conte has included Balotelli since taking over from Cesare Prandelli after Italy's first-round elimination from the World Cup.

Conte says "maybe it's even better that Balotelli is arriving during a rough period. I think he'll dedicate himself to the national team."

Since transferring from AC Milan, Balotelli has scored only two goals in 14 appearances for Liverpool — none in the Premier League.

Writing on Facebook, Balotelli says he is "glad to be back on the National Team and proud to represent my country."