“There's a serial killer on the trail of Prandelli's plans for Italy's attack,” wrote Massimo Cecchini in La Gazzetta dello Sport as Euro 2012 approached. He was referring to, of course, the possibility of Giuseppe Rossi and Antonio Cassano both missing out on the finals. Cassano was still recovering from a heart attack suffered in October. Rossi, meanwhile, was in a race to regain his fitness after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the same month. Cecchini’s words were most pertinent at the time.
In the end, Cassano did turn out for the Azzurri and he went on to help them reach the final. Rossi however, was not so lucky. Rather, he was extremely unlucky.
No sooner had Rossi returned to training in April of that year, he aggravated the same injury. It was discovered that his first operation had not gone so well. The holes drilled in his legs were too big and this was the reason he suffered a second tear. Corrective surgery was required and he faced an even longer spell on the side-lines then the first time around. It goes without saying - he did not make it to the Euros.
Ironically, tonight’s game against Denmark will mark exactly two years since he was last involved with the Azzurri, though he did not play against Northern Ireland in what was Italy’s last European Championship qualifier back in 2011. Understandably, he is very excited: “I’m happy to be back in the Nazionale. It feels like I’ve come back home.”
It has not taken long for Rossi to earn his recall to the national side. After such a long time without playing, eight games is not much. But, so impressive has he been for Fiorentina that Prandelli just could not resist, even though he is still not 100 per cent fit after a recent minor injury. Rossi has already scored six goals and is currently second on the Capocannoniere charts.
It has been a sensational return to form after such a debilitating injury that had some pondering whether he would ever return to the game at all. But Rossi insists: “I never thought about retiring. I always tried to think positive and focus on recovery. That is the mentality I keep to this day, because I want to improve day by day.” And this is only good news for Italy.
Indeed, Rossi’s return to action and form is a major boost for Prandelli’s side. Aside from Mario Balotelli, the Italy boss does not too many stellar options at present. This was most obvious at the recent Confederations Cup when Alberto Gilardino was chosen to replace the injured Milan striker in the semi-final against Spain. Other alternatives such as Pablo Osvaldo and Sebastian Giovinco have yet to really make their mark with La Nazionale while the likes of Stephan El Shaarawy and Lorenzo Insigne are still very raw talents by international standards.
In Rossi, however, not only does Prandelli have a proven goal-scorer, but, he has a highly flexible one too. He is able to play out wide in a three-pronged attack, while he is just as comfortable sitting in behind the main striker. Most importantly, especially if Balotelli is unavailable, the New Jersey native can also play the lead role the attack. With Prandelli’s penchant for tinkering with systems and tactics, he will certainly be delighted to have Rossi to count on again.
After being snubbed by Marcelo Lippi for the 2010 World Cup and then having suffered such misfortune ahead of Euro 2012, Rossi is still yet to feature for Italy at a major international tournament. His only appearance to date was at the 2009 Confederations Cup where his two-goal match-winning display against the USA, ironically, first brought him to the world’s attention. Rossi, and indeed every Italian fan, will be hoping he can capture the world’s attention once again in 12 months’ time.
Read more from Frank Tigani at The Divine Ponytail.