Super Mario expects Italy to beat the Three Lions in Manaus.
Former Manchester City star Mario Balotelli has said that he does not view England as potential World Cup winners.
The controversial Italy striker, who now plays his club football for AC Milan, will come face to face with the Three Lions when the Group D rivals clash in Manaus on June 14.
England have not reached the semi-finals of the World Cup since they were champions in 1966, and Balotelli does not expect Roy Hodgson’s side to go deep in this year’s tournament either.
Italy have won the World Cup four times, most recently in 2006.
Balotelli admits that his country are not among the favourites to lift the trophy this summer, but he reckons that the Azzurri have the potential to go all the way.
“I don’t look at England as a team that can win the World Cup,” Balotelli told the Daily Mail. “They have some good players, but they are no real rivals for Italy.
“I am not saying that Italy are favourites, but we have the mentality and experienced players to surprise people. I don’t think England have that.
“We have players who have won the World Cup. I don’t think England have a player who knows what it is like to play past the quarter-final.
“In the opening game, we have to respect England because it is important to get off to a good start.
“They have maybe two or three players who can hurt us, but we feel well prepared for the tournament and expect to start off with a win.”
Balotelli has scored 12 goals in 29 senior international appearances for England.
The 23-year-old was one of seven strikers included in Italy’s 30-man provisional World Cup squad, along with Parma’s Antonio Cassano, Fiorentina’s Giuseppe Rossi, Roma’s Mattia Destro, Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne and Torino pair Alessio Cerci and Ciro Immobile.
Italy are the bookmakers’ sixth favourites to win the World Cup, at a best price of 25-1, while England are available at 28-1.