Mauri relishing Azzurri return
Mauri, who has been inspirational for league leaders Lazio this season, was included in Cesare Prandelli's squad for the UEFA EURO 2012 qualifiers against Northern Ireland and Serbia. The 30-year-old has earned six caps for the Azzurri, the last of which came in a friendly against South Africa on 17 October 2007.
"I'm here to stay," Mauri said. "This call is to the merit of Lazio. When a team is doing so well, the individual talent emerges. But this return to the national team is also down to my personal determination to believe in my quality. I feel more responsibility and I believe I can give a lot to this group. I hope to do well with the Azzurri jersey for a long time knowing that there is plenty of competition. To return after three years is a great satisfaction."
Mauri's call-up comes as no surprise, with Prandelli having claimed the Lazio player is the "most in-form midfielder in Serie A." His goal handed Lazio a 1-0 triumph over Brescia on Sunday and allowed the Romans to take sole possession of first place in the standings. "We have done really well in our opening six games, but it's too early to know how far we can go this season," he said.
Mauri could start in Friday's qualifier against Northern Ireland in Belfast. "I am ready," he said. "My ideal position would be to play at the heart of midfield but I could also play on the wing or as playmaker. I am an attacking midfielder that can play in several roles but it will be up to Prandelli to decide in which position to place me."
Mauri could play alongside Andrea Pirlo in central midfield. Italy top Group C after they won their opening two qualifiers against Estonia and the Faroe Islands. Gli Azzurri face Northern Ireland before hosting Serbia, second in the group, in Genoa next Tuesday.