London - Mario Balotelli has already written off England’s chances of winning the World Cup.
Italy face England in Manaus on June 14 in the opening game of their tournament.
And Balotelli has already begun to fan the flames ahead of the fixture by questioning the big-tournament mentality of England’s players.
‘I don’t look at England as a team that can win the World Cup,’ he said. ‘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.’
The former Manchester City striker will be aiming to damage England’s chances of progressing through a tough group with Uruguay and Costa Rica.
Balotelli was notorious for his erratic off-field antics during three years in England, after he joined City from Inter Milan for £24million in 2010.
He scored 30 goals in 49 starts for City, helping them win the Barclays Premier League, FA Cup and Community Shield.
And the 23-year-old is confident that Italy will kick off their campaign with a victory over England.
‘In the opening game we have to respect England because it is important to get off to a good start,’ he said. ‘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.’