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Italy going to World Cup to have fun

(ANSA.IT)    09:07, May 22, 2014
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(ANSA) - Florence, May 20 - Italy are going to the World Cup to have fun but mean to go all the way, Azzurro coach Cesare Prandelli said Tuesday.

"Let's remember that we're going to the World Cup to play football, to enjoy ourselves," Prandelli told a press conference marking the start of World Cup training at Coverciano near Florence. "(But) we want to go all the way," the Tuscan coach stressed. "This team is organised to get to the final".

Veteran former bad boy Antonio Cassano can play a big part in the World Cup if he tames his ego and takes his "last chance" on the global stage, Prandelli added.

"Cassano knows it's his last chance. He cleared the board, started from scratch, he realised this is his great opportunity," the Azzurri boss said of the 31-year-old Parma striker, who came back into the national squad at the last minute.

"We have to focus on the we, not the I, the ego," Prandelli said of the sometimes wayward former Roma, Real Madrid and AC Milan forward, whose quality as one of the greatest talents of his generation has so far not shone fully on the international scene.

Cassano, like the other Azzurri, "must understand that they can make a difference for five, 10 or 80 minutes," Prandelli told a press conference at the start of their World Cup training camp at Coverciano near Florence. Prandelli is expected to use Cassano, who had heart surgery three years ago, as an impact substitute in the Brazilian heat.

Cassano was a last-minute call-up to the squad along with Fiorentina's Giuseppe Rossi, recently recovered from his umpteenth injury setback.

Rossi and Cassano were among the 30 players Prandelli named in his preliminary squad, which will be trimmed down to 23 men by June 2.

Prandelli said he wanted to focus on younger players after Cassano helped Italy finish runners-up at Euro 2012.

But Cassano's form for Parma, who just squeaked in to qualify for next season's Europa League, has been too good to ignore.

Italy are in a tough group at the World Cup that includes England, Costa Rica and Uruguay.

The Azzurri will start their campaign against England on June 14 in Manaus, a city in the middle of the Amazon rain forest, before travelling around 1,450 km to the Atlantic coast for their other two group games, against Costa Rica and Uruguay, in Recife and Natal respectively.

Prandelli's men have two friendlies scheduled in the run-up to the World Cup, against Ireland in London on May 31 and against Luxembourg in Verona on June 4.


Cassano had been banging on the door of the Azzurri dressing room all season, and Prandelli gave his first big hint he would open it for the reformed rebel two months ago.

The coach said that, while he had never closed the doors to the national team on Antonio Cassano, they were "not too open either".

But the Parma forward, who will turn 32 just before the World Cup ends, kept up his rich vein of form and forced his way into Prandelli's reckonings. He took his goal tally for the season up to 11 when he scored a double to help Parma beat his former side AC Milan 4-2 at the San Siro in mid-March.

He went on to end the campaign on 12 strikes including one penalty, 10 behind this year's revelation, Ciro Immobile of Torino. The talented and famously temperamental striker also delivered seven assists this term, helping Parma notch up a 16-match undefeated run to climb to sixth place and qualify for Europe's second-string competition.

Cassano's form was not the only factor behind his return to the Azzurri fold.

With Rossi's fitness in doubt, Prandelli was also casting about for an alternative second striker to partner Milan's Mario Balotelli in attack.

Cassano said just before he got the call-up he wanted to "cause Prandelli trouble" over his selections by keeping up the good work.

"I've lost 10 kilos to go to Brazil. I'm on a diet and I've stopped eating focaccine (pizza), except for once a week," he said after the Milan win.

"I have never played at a World Cup and it's something I'd love to do. I would be the happiest man in the world if it happened".

Some pundits had suggested Prandelli might be concerned about whether Cassano would be fit enough to cope with the intense heat, although this might be less of a problem if the coach intended to use him as an impact substitute rather than a starter.

Another factor, however, is Cassano's volatile personality which, even if he seems to have got it under control recently, could upset the balance of Prandelli's squad.

One of the most gifted players of his generation, his career has been dogged by disciplinary problems and rows with coaches and he has won relatively few trophies for a footballer of his potential.

Cassano's temper tantrums have been so numerous that the Italian press has dubbed them 'Cassanate' - a play on the widely used swear word 'cazzata', meaning f**k-up.

After exhausting the patience of his coaches at AS Roma and Real Madrid, he looked to have become a reformed character after joining Sampdoria in 2008.

He once famously gave a referee who had sent him off the 'horns' gesture, which is an Italian way of telling someone they are a cuckold, and went on to throw his shirt at him and threaten to wait for him for a fight after the game.

But otherwise he was mostly on good behaviour while playing for the Genoa side before he lost his temper with late club chairman Riccardo Garrone, calling him an "old sh*t", among other things.

That spat lead to a dispute that ended with Cassano joining AC Milan in 2011.

Cassano spent much of his time at Milan recovering from an operation to fix a heart defect that caused him to have a minor stroke in 2011, so it was a relatively uneventful stint in terms of 'Cassanate'.

He moved to Inter in 2012 but did not stay longer than one season following a big training ground bust-up with former coach Andrea Stramaccioni.

The player, who comes from a deprived area of the southern Italian city of Bari, is cheerful and entertaining in his infrequent press interviews, although his controversial opinions have got him into trouble.

He was fined after causing an outcry during Euro 2012 by saying he hoped there were no gay players in the Italy team and using a derogatory term, 'froci', to describe homosexuals.

(Editor:Wang Xin、Yan Meng)

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