Thursday June 7 2012
Cassano’s time to shine

After a number of false starts during his career, Antonio Cassano will be hoping to make a strong impact in Poland and Ukraine. Luca Cetta writes.

Cesare Prandelli’s aim was for a sparkling Italy brimming with talent. He also strived to be in charge of an Azzurri squad which would reconnect with the fans following the South African disaster. One player to bring those elements together was Antonio Cassano.

The artistic attacker was perhaps the most talked-about Italian in June 2010 yet wasn’t even at the World Cup. Immediately returning to the Giro Azzurro for Prandelli’s first match, barring health problems the Bari native has been a mainstay during his reign. The tactician has placed a great deal of faith in Cassano, who has become pivotal in the forward line which “offers no reference points”.

Prandelli waited for Cassano to return from his heart issue and he is expected to have a huge say in Italy’s Eastern European adventure. Before the heart scare in October, he starred during qualifying, finishing with six goals as Italy convincingly won Group C. In the friendly versus Spain last August at the Stadio San Nicola in Bari, Cassano’s transformation from discarded to decisive was completed when handed the captaincy that night.

This will be Cassano’s third tilt at lifting the Henri Delaunay Trophy and Il Gioiello di Bari Vecchia – who has never played at the World Cup – hopes to erase past international disappointments. At Euro 2004 he was a rare bright spot in Italy’s disappointing and controversial group stage exit, netting against Sweden and Bulgaria. His joy at scoring what appeared to be a crucial goal in the final match was offset by the news Sweden and Denmark were level.

Four years later Italy never truly recovered from 3-0 thumping at the hands of the Netherlands as Cassano tried in vain to lift a disjointed and ultimately unsatisfactory Azzurri outfit. He ended the tournament scoreless.

In the interim, numerous Cassanata incidents put the striker at loggerheads with Marcello Lippi. His immaturity and form did not merit a call-up for Germany 2006, but after toning down his behaviour at Sampdoria and leading the port-city club to the Champions League, Lippi still refused to pick the player deemed to upset squad harmony. Despite media and fan pressure – including a surreal lone-fan pitch invasion in PescaraLippi stuck to his guns as Italy failed to outfox the likes of New Zealand.

Two years on and Cassano – following a breakdown in the relationship with club President Riccardo Garrone causing his departure from Samp – has moved to Milan and built on the promise of his Blucerchiati days. Since returning to action in April Cassano has shown glimpses of his best, even if his fitness may still be a concern.

Despite limited appearances in 2011-12 he managed three goals, 10 assists and was just shy of three key passes per match – sitting within the top five in Serie A for the latter two categories. Prandelli is counting on Cassano to cast aside the false starts and illustrate his creative genius on the highest stage.

With Andrea Pirlo pulling the strings from deep, Cassano, now 29, will be vital further afield, both creatively – given the issues in fielding a suitable trequartista – and as a finisher. Italy have scored just twice since Cassano’s problem, while Antonio Di Natale – not assured of a starting spot – is the only other striker to have played at a major tournament. In addition, the four other attackers in the squad have just 11 goals for Italy – Di Natale 10 and Mario Balotelli one – between them.

It may not be a squad filled with world-class individuals as the tactician admitted, but he knows there is one such player in his forward line, a player looking to make up for lost time.

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Have your say...
For me cassano is overweight.. I cant imagine him taking over defenders.. That is very unlikely to happen. That leaves balotelli alone upfront.. And that guy is moody & only plays for himself. The wingbacks that we have are no natural goal-scorers so can somebody please tell me who are likely to score??? Italy is going to have a disastrous tournament i bet my finger on it
on the 10th June, 2012 at 7:54am
Thank you VIKtor, exactly my point, Adam keeps on going on about how bad the strikers are. I mean He had a minor Heart Attack. He had a stroke for starters and now he is in good form. Everyone watch Italy prove the world wrong.
on the 9th June, 2012 at 8:33pm
Cassano has performed very well in the past, and I hope with all my heart he can pull Italia through to a good competition this time , but I fear the worst for this adventure. However Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani did wonderfully well today, so I hope the boys were watching and can also be inspired.
Forza Italia
on the 8th June, 2012 at 11:42pm
on the 8th June, 2012 at 7:50pm

Obviously you dont watch Seria A..
on the 8th June, 2012 at 6:54pm
Di natale instead of giovinco or Borini. He's tried and tested twice and twice he's failed..... Miserably. Regardless of what cesare chooses he has my full backing. Forza italia!!!
on the 8th June, 2012 at 12:50pm
I like 3-5-2 but what team has won using this formation? Also the whole qualifying campaign has been 4-3-1-2 we were unbeaten, scored 20 conceded 2, beat Spain and drew with Germany. Yes of late our FRIENDLYS haven't gone the way we wanted. I feel a lot of it is de Rossi not having the legs in midfield. With motta brings possession but it eliminates gio in that att mid role of the 4-3-1-2 which he would have been deadly given a chance. I do fear if we struggle for goals he'll look towards......
on the 8th June, 2012 at 12:46pm
I hope Cassano can shine this tournament and that he has a good understanding with Mario! Mario WILL get chances, it's just whether he has composure to convert them! He didn't against Russia! I don't think Di Natale would be much use from the start and should be used as a substitute when the other team is tiring. Giovinco could be our secret weapon, but I do think we needed another option upfront like Matri! He was in great form earlier in the season and scored against the big teams in serie a!
on the 8th June, 2012 at 10:56am
I agree with Anthony in terms of playing Cassano in the trequatista role with Gio and Balo up top.. maybe not against the Spanish but i would definately play them three for the games against Croatia and Ireland...
on the 8th June, 2012 at 10:52am
We'll he had a minor heart attack so I didn't expect much.. DUH... that is true but why take him in the first place...if Messi had one fine cuz he is the worlds best but Cassano?? overweight with a heart problem = italys best hope? kidding me gotta be
on the 8th June, 2012 at 10:27am
Cassano is a wasted talent and has not been trusted by so many coaches for a reason. I would play Di Natale as the main central striker with Giovinco and Balotelli either side of him. Pirlo, Marchisio and De Rossi providing a Juve style midfield. Maggio, Bonucci, Chiellini and Balzaretti at the back, with the mighty Gigi behind sounds pretty good to me. The Spaniards can beaten, losing Puyol and David Villa could prove fatal. Italy can win the group and make the semi's at least.
on the 8th June, 2012 at 6:38am
one player does not win a tournament. a unified team wins.
cassano is the type of player you want in this situation with italy with their backs up against a wall. cassano is a street fighter. you need people like him on the pitch. he may not score a goal, but he sure will set up a few. his strength is not his ability to score, its his ability to see the game around him and set up other players.
on the 8th June, 2012 at 3:39am
I think playing de rossi at the back is a great idea, also motta in midfield will add so much more, cassano will play with huge passion, pirlo will ping the ball about, mario up front will start to score the goals, please people, la nazionale isn't dead, we are very much alive, with the backs against the wall the boys in azzurri blue will be ok, forza italia e basta cosi!!
on the 7th June, 2012 at 10:54pm
Last 2 blogs state Italys hopes. Italy need club-like Di Natale & Cassanos time to shine. We are hoping on 2 players who have never performed or reach their expectation in the Azzurri shirt. Next Blog will be The Azzuri need Super Mario to become a Word Beater or Giovinco to become a giant for the Azzurri to succeed in Euro 2012. Other Countries have match winners we are hoping to still find one. Still cant wait until Sunday 5PM. FORZA AZZURRI
on the 7th June, 2012 at 10:45pm
I don't understand why there is not one mention of Giovinco ANYWHERE. There is not just Cassano or Balotelli or Di Natale. Giovinco has been STELLAR this year. He has better dribbling than any of the other attackers, and he has shown that he can score. I say, play him up front as secondo punto. Balotelli should be his strike partner and Cassano should be trequartista. It could work!
on the 7th June, 2012 at 9:48pm
Cassano is an artist. There are so few in the game that I would play him for 90 minutes is every match. He also has a personality, something which is also sadly lacking in modern football/life.
on the 7th June, 2012 at 9:07pm
@ Adam

We'll he had a minor heart attack so I didn't expect much.. DUH
on the 7th June, 2012 at 8:36pm

When will you ever write something that's actually true and correct?

Cassano is the spine up front for the Azzuri.

Stop hating ACM players, it's so obvious.
on the 7th June, 2012 at 8:35pm
Put your money down on Italy bc they r going to win it ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
on the 7th June, 2012 at 7:59pm
"Time to shine", no, no and no.

He is out of shape and form. He barely can complete a half.
on the 7th June, 2012 at 7:42pm
Forza Cassano, he is going to have an amazing tournament and I think Balotelli will as well. My prediction

spain 2-2 Cassano, Balotelli
Croatia 2-0 Marchisio, Di Natale
Ireland 4-0 Cassano, Balotelli(2), Giovinco
France 1-0 after extra time Cassano
Germany 1-2 Cassano
on the 7th June, 2012 at 6:44pm
Now it's his time to stand up to the challenge, fingers crossed but I believe he can do it.
on the 7th June, 2012 at 5:30pm
lets put this 'italian euro cup '12 journey' to bed. No expectations, no optimism, no bad thinking of the best case scenario too later be disappointed of a failure. results speak louder then anything! if the azzurri and cassano have something to prove or show, then they must take the field and deliver the results no matter what the adversity is. get the results and the results will speak for themselves. period. get the results, delivery it, and then we will all speak about it after then!
on the 7th June, 2012 at 5:25pm
Another guy who needs to prove he has it...iv been saying in other blogs he isnt a goal scorer and that is what italy need this guy is rated highly on this site by others and i just wonder why? for Milan even last season he didnt do alot apart from sit on a bench. He showed brief glimpses at sampdoria but for me another waste of space, but i guess italy dont have many more options. I think maybe him assisting Di Natalie would be the best bet.
on the 7th June, 2012 at 4:59pm
Forza Cassano!!
on the 7th June, 2012 at 4:42pm

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