2022 FIFA World Cup: Mario Balotelli Misses Italy Squad For Playoffs; Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci Returns

Mario Balotelli was at Italy's three-day training camp in January. Italy play North Macedonia and if they win, will play the winner between Portugal or Turkey.

Mario Balotelli in action during Italy football team's national camp in January.

Mario Balotelli was left off Italy’s squad for the 2022 FIFA World Cup playoffs, and the European champion was also without midfielder Manuel Locatelli, who tested positive for COVID-19. (More Football News)

Italy face North Macedonia in Palermo, Sicily, on Thursday. If the Azzurri beat North Macedonia, they will play at the winner of a game between Portugal and Turkey for a spot at the tournament in Qatar this year.

Italy already failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Missing two straight World Cups would be an unprecedented low point for the four-time champion. Balotelli was at Italy's three-day training camp in January, three years after his last appearance for the Azzurri.

The Italian football federation said on Friday that Locatelli will join the squad following an isolation period. That likely means he won’t be available until a possible second match of the playoffs. Also missing is forward Federico Chiesa, who has been out since January following surgery on the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Center backs Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci have both just returned from injury.

Italy Squad:

Goalkeepers: Alessio Cragno (Cagliari), Gianluigi Donnarumma (Paris Saint-Germain), Pierluigi Gollini (Tottenham), Salvatore Sirigu (Genoa).

Defenders: Francesco Acerbi (Lazio), Alessandro Bastoni (Inter Milan), Cristiano Biraghi (Fiorentina), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Emerson Palmieri (Lyon), Alessandro Florenzi (AC Milan), Luiz Felipe (Lazio), Gianluca Mancini (Roma).

Midfielders: Nicolò Barella (Inter Milan), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Jorginho (Chelsea), Manuel Locatelli (Juventus), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Matteo Pessina (Atalanta), Stefano Sensi (Sampdoria), Sandro Tonali (AC Milan), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain).

Forwards: Andrea Belotti (Torino), Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Joao Pedro (Cagliari), Matteo Politano (Napoli), Giacomo Raspadori (Sassuolo), Gianluca Scamacca (Sassuolo) Mattia Zaccagni (Lazio), Nicolò Zaniolo (Roma).