The Azzurri yesterday night joined Holland as the only European sides to have so far booked their ticket to next year’s tournament in Brazil.
Cesare Prandelli’s side beat the Czech Republic 2-1 in Turin, courtesy of a Balotelli penalty, to qualify with two games to spare.
“I think we will be among the favourites (in the World Cup),” Balotelli told Gazzetta dello Sport. “There are still one or two teams that are above us, but they should fear us, not the other way round.”
The four-time World Champions have qualified in style. Italy remain unbeaten in Group B and are seven points clear of nearest rivals Bulgaria, who beat Malta 2-1.
> Italy 2 (Chiellini, Balotelli) bt Czech Republic 1 (Kozak)
> Sweden 1 (Ibrahimovic) bt Kazakhstan 0
> Germany 3 (Mertesacker, Ozil, Mueller) bt Faroe Islands 0
> Netherlands 2 (Van Persie 2) bt Andorra 0
> Ukraine 0 drew with England 0
> France 4 (Ribery 2, Nasri, Pogba) bt Belarus 2 (Filipenko, Kalachev)
> Uruguay 2 (Cavani, Stuani) bt Colombia 0
> Argentina 5 (Messi 2, Aguero, Di Maria, Rodriguez) bt Paraguay 2 (Nunez, Santa Cruz)