Saturday March 22 2014
Cesare must call on Cassano

Antonio Cassano’s form has many clamouring for his inclusion into the World Cup and rightly so, as Lorenzo Vicini explains.

“The World Cup? Nobody has called me yet, but I hope for it.” Fresh off his fantastic performance in Parma’s win over Milan, Antonio Cassano set his sights on this summer and his goal of going to Brazil. For his part, the 31-year-old is in the midst of a superb season for the Ducali and continues to build a case for his inclusion on a weekly basis. But should Cesare Prandelli include the enigmatic striker on his list of players for the Azzurri?

From a simple statistical perspective, Antonio’s numbers this term speak for themselves. He has been the central figure propelling Parma to a sixth place in the table and a current unbeaten streak of 16 matches. He leads the Gialloblu with 11 goals and his tally places him among the top 10 in Serie A, just four goals off leader Carlos Tevez. In fact, his goal total is only three shy of his best ever mark of 14, which he scored for Roma in the 2003-04 season.

It doesn’t just stop with his goal scoring exploits, though. The man they call FantAntonio is also Parma’s leader in assists with five to his name. But it’s another version of the ‘assist’ that makes the striker stand out. The Italian assist, defined as the last pass occurring before a player shoots, is all his. According to statistics provided by Lega Serie A, Cassano is the best assist-man in the League with 54. Miralem Pjanic is second with 51 followed by Andrea Pirlo and Luca Cigarini who are joint-third with 47.   

Beyond the numbers, Cassano is that rare breed of player who can change a game at a moment’s notice, whether it be an intoxicating dribble, exceptional pass or deadly shot. His gifts are innate and his talent second-to-none. A spot on the roster is almost warranted alone by his unique skillset as he is not limited to one specific role on the pitch.

Nevertheless, the argument against Cassano usually follows one of two paths. The first relates to his age but more specifically, his fitness level. Part of the frustration with Cassano throughout his career has been his casual commitment to keeping himself in shape. Prandelli has made mention of the need for ‘athletes’ for the rigors of the World Cup in the Brazilian heat and humidity and that description alone would never accurately describe the Bari native. Yet, he has held up this season and it isn’t unthinkable to see him maintain himself for the extra month of play on the world’s biggest stage.

The second argument always speaks of his ‘troublesome’ character and his infamous ‘Cassanate’. It is often said that his temperamental nature will make him a locker room cancer. Or, he cannot be trusted to control himself. This is such a tired, lazy argument, though. The truth is Antonio Cassano is not the same troubled spirit of five years ago, one who was always a spark away from setting off a powder keg of emotion. He has matured and provided little-to-no drama since his Sampdoria days.

Furthermore, when given the opportunity to play for Italy, Cassano has practically behaved like a saint. And if behaviour is a benchmark, much more temperamental players such as Mario Balotelli and Pablo Daniel Osvaldo must be judged by the same standards. But their inclusion on that basis is hardly contested.

Cassano is worthy of a spot on Italy’s roster. He needn’t be a starter but his inclusion would give Prandelli another weapon in his arsenal. For Cassano, it would be his first and last chance to showcase his genius in the most prestigious tournament in the world. And the world deserves to see it.

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Have your say...
5 Forwards are usually brought to big tournaments, my selection would be...

1. Balotelli
2. Cassano
3. Cerci
4. Immobile
5. Totti

In reserve

Rossi (would have been in first 5 if it wasn't for his long lay off - but worth considering if he's fit and firing again)
on the 1st April, 2014 at 11:13am
@mm Not sure if you have trouble reading or you just too ignorant to remember what you just read. I said Balo is vital for the national. Who gives a damn about Milan atm, we're talking about the national. You seriously would consider dropping balotelli for the world cup in brazil? That's bizarre. @daniel I think when it comes to big games he steps up. He forces the opponent to put a lot of pressure on him, giving great space for the rest of the team. He's great at that.
on the 26th March, 2014 at 2:18pm
@viktor and lemoney
Your rite think its just me over reacting. I mean hes been fundamental for milan this season and instrumental for italy since germany in the euro. His excessive goal scoring is just to good to be left out of italy. Leave immobile, rossi, destro, insigne at home and leave it to balo- hes guided milan to champions league glory with his unforgettable goal tally. Lets leave derossi and cassano at home too there conduct on the pitch is horrendous they should follow balo example.
on the 26th March, 2014 at 10:58am
@mm, CP does seem to have different rules for different players: it is very frustrating! @Viktor, is Balo really crucial for Italy? Him having a great Euros is a myth: he had a great semi-final! His goal record for Italy is respectable, but not exceptional. His performances for Italy are a little better than at club level, but he still only plays in patches & his finishing is still erratic. If Balotelli is crucial for Italy, then I'd say that we are in a sorry state.
on the 26th March, 2014 at 10:11am
In response to Daniel, I agree about Darmian but I think he may well get his chance after the world cup. I am mixed about Cesare doing another 2 years, I think it is great in terms of his plans to work with youth team and further behind the scenes work to hopefully improve all aspects of our international set up. I would love to see Ancelotti as manager. I still maintain Cesare s lack of tactical know how and not knowing his best team will mean we will win nothing under him.
on the 26th March, 2014 at 9:03am
Nicola you only responded about Totti and may I add Garcia has repeatedly stated what a great player Totti is. Obviously Totti has been injured but when he has played he has been very effective. Clearly Prandelli and Totti know he should only go if he is fit. Unlime Adp Totti has played every game when he has been fit.
on the 25th March, 2014 at 9:23pm
Well said Viktor. I'd still play Cassano along side him though.
on the 25th March, 2014 at 8:40pm

Yes and you wanna know why? Because Balo steps up in big national games, and is feared by the opponent. So please. Enough with the balo hating, for the national hes crucial. Everyone knows that.
on the 25th March, 2014 at 4:26pm
Is balotelli in form?? If insigne has to stay at home bcoz hes apparently out of form and not playing, and cassano shouldnt be in the squad bcoz hes problematic then please explain why balo is guaranteed a place- hes not exactly playing the greatest football on earth rite now. Immobile is in great form why should he be left out or left on the bench?
Its one rule for 1 and another rule for another. In form or not in form/ conduct on and off the pitch/ most players are left out except for balo!
on the 25th March, 2014 at 12:29pm
Not a bad squad Sam! Although I'd take Cerci over Insigne, as he has better end product & greater pace. I'd take Motta over Marchisio as, aside from DDR, we are short of physicality in the cm department. Our full back situation isn't great, although Regini, Darmian, Antonelli have impressed me this season & should be giving CP some food for thought. Ive never been convinced by Abate & Maggio at full back. Darmian started his career as a CB, & this explains why he is a FB who can actually defend.
on the 25th March, 2014 at 12:19pm
Sorry Strummerman but Totti's been injured quite a few times this year. If I stand correct it's been Garcia that's been carrying this team with the help of Strootman who's now injured, Gervinho and a certain few. Not that Totti isn't effective it's just that he's not bigger than the team anymore. Look what happened to Del Piero at Juventus.......
on the 25th March, 2014 at 2:32am
I don't know why everyone has Insigne on the team. Has he been that good this year on the bench. His place has been taken by Martens and Pandev. Time to get a reality grip. As for bringing fit non entities like Nicola wants should we remind ourselves of 2010 again? Totti has been leading a second place team all year round
on the 24th March, 2014 at 8:53pm
Saying cassano is problematic but having no issue with balo is alittle bit of a contradiction. Plus to say bring players in for then say bring balo is also a little unfair on those players in form. I think giving a player a guaranteed place even if hes is completly out of form is also ridiculous! Please tell me how players are ever supposed to break through CP squad when he bases his teams on his favourite players and players who think they are better than they are- gila, osvaldo, monto, balo!
on the 24th March, 2014 at 8:28pm
Dino, was making mugs of two top flight defenders before the pass to Balo for his goal in the semi final against germany not good enough?he also scored most of the goals in qualifying.he is the only creative striker italy have got, except totti, who would find brazil tough in my opinion.italy are really lacking some creativity up front and liek him or not,it's cassano. also,i don't see how he ever behaved badly for italy? he also has bags of enthusiam when he wats too,which is highly infectious
on the 24th March, 2014 at 6:41pm
Totti and Gilardino absolutely not. Both too old and definitely the do not run a lot! Cassano is problematic. Could he accept the bench? I do not think so.Insigne has great talent but most of you are right, lately he isn't playing well but I would still take him. I would runners:
Always bring unknown. Remember Schillacci!
on the 24th March, 2014 at 2:07pm
My squad if all fit would be : Buffon, Sirigu, Perin
Chiellini, Paletta, De Sciglio, Abate, Bonucci, Barzagli, Maggio.
De Rossi, Candreva, Pirlo, Verratti, Marchisio, Jorginho, Florenzi
Rossi, Balo, Cassano, Immobile, Insigne, Destro.

That's the squad Cesare. Also it annoys me how people criticise Juve, they are the only Italian team left in Europe as usual. We desperately need them to win Europa or face falling further behind in coeffiency points. Our league is in a mess.
on the 24th March, 2014 at 9:36am
Cassano must go its a no brainer. I agree you must pick in form players. Balo is a different player for Italy than Milan. Balo, Cassano, Rossi, Insigne, Immobile and Destro should be the 6 strikers. Insigne needs to improve his finishing big time though. I am a huge roma fan but to take totti is a joke. He is good in Serie A, but hasn't played in Europe for a few season or internationally since 2006, plus the heat and his age. Some people need to wise up and be realistic. Jorginho should go.
on the 24th March, 2014 at 9:30am
I'm sorry to burst everybody's bubble on this blog sight but maybe Cassano as a sub that's it nothing more. And no Gilardino, no Totti, no Toni or even Montolivo. Well maybe as a sub Monty that's that.....Cigarini at par with Pirlo rightfully so I mean this guy's a beast Cesare what're you waiting for. Get a fully fit young and hungry squad out there in that BRAZILIAN HUMID TROPICAL HEAT ZONE and we'll do just fine at the world cup.
on the 24th March, 2014 at 2:58am
I think our anonymous writer has hit the nail on the head- pick in form players! To me it would be scandalous for players to be put in the team based on name and hype. Immobile is top scorer he is in great form, insigne, destro and cassano are all in great form so if they ccontinue in this way they must be there. This is the same philosophy that should be used throughout this team! Players inform will score play and gel- waiting and hoping for a player to find form will cut our wc very short!
on the 23rd March, 2014 at 11:17pm
@Al Lemony

You may disagree with me, but if you truly believe that Cassano is Italy's answer for Brazil, you are the one who is nuts. Its my humble opinion that Cassano can't improve this Italy squad. The guy had his chance blew it with his antics, then he failed to deliver on a few occasions and then had the heart problem and now he is simply not deserving of the call up. A few good performances in Sere A over the course of 6-8 months is simply not enough to convince me that he can do something more than say Immobile or some other younger striker.
on the 23rd March, 2014 at 10:27pm
Totally agree that Totti and Cassano are not in shape to play a full 90 that is why we need both of them. They are interchangeable can virtually play a half each like Rivera Mazzola in their day. Totally agree they will free Pirlo from man marking. As for Montolivo, Bonaventura looked much better today
on the 23rd March, 2014 at 9:41pm
to Dino Al... are you nuts... he single handedly qualified italy for the euros and also played and scored and set up goals after a fairly major heart problem... he was also the only upside of donadoni's euro desaster. he is class on the ball. also, balo will be great for italy, it milan the problem. he needs service and milan have none. italy is a far, far better team tha milan.
on the 23rd March, 2014 at 8:01pm
Seems majority here would love to see Cassano go to Brazil. Honestly, i don't remember him ever making a difference or any solid contribution to the Azzurri cause. Not that the younger players have either, but when it comes down to it, younger players deserve their chance to step up and contribute to the Azzurri cause rather than giving an older player a second or third chance to do what he couldn't do while he was younger.
on the 23rd March, 2014 at 6:32pm
The biggest factor in support of him is that he's the ONLY class SS/No 10 we have right now. Insigne hasn't come on and no-one else is capable of that role. If Prandelli makes this mistake of leaving him, it will be Lippi all over again.
on the 23rd March, 2014 at 5:38pm
Prandelli should pick whichever forwards are in best form and take to the world cup, regardless of age and whether or not they were called up recently. And that means dropping Balotelli if he continues his bad form. Italy needs to have in-form attackers to have any chance in their group. Also, Prandelli should stop picking players from his old fiorentina days, namely Gilardino and Montolivo. I know Gilardino is scoring for Genoa but when was the last time he made a difference for Italy?
on the 23rd March, 2014 at 2:27pm
we are lacking creativity and our d is very shaky...i say bring totti and cassano.....give teams a headache keep the ball

leave jonny depp wannabe (osvaldo) and the pylon( motta) home....paletta too...

give astori a shot

and for gods sake veratti too

oh wait...they are not oruindi
on the 23rd March, 2014 at 12:34pm
Cassano should go because he brings out the best in balotelli and whether you like him or not Balo and Pirlo are the only 2 outfield Italians that the rest of the world fear. Enough of this clamour for old players like Toni and Totti. I watched Totti last night being so wasteful in possession. Great player he was once and he is still good but taking a 37 year old is sending the wrong message to both rivals and young players besides he did not do shine in the wc in his prime so y now?
on the 23rd March, 2014 at 12:16pm
Insigne would be great for his free kicks...but really when you watch him he almost always takes the wrong option, as for Giac ,,really???should we really be talking about a player like him keeping out real talent??what is it with football managers and their favourites???winds me up,,,he has done nothing for Sunderland ,,, also please Balo....ok I accept you have to go to Brazil,,,,but please please leave the free kicks outside the penalty area to Pirlo Diamanté and If he goes.....Insigne,,!!
on the 23rd March, 2014 at 11:09am
Leave glia!!

Please,,,, but!,,, mm,,,, you have to bring Osvaldo, he has too much talent to be left behind, also he will want to show England how classy he really is!!
Also yo have to bring Diamanté, leave Insigne,,poor season,,not convinced by him!!' Please think about it fellow azzuri Italy will also be stronger with Luca Toni in the squad as he really is a beast, and in my view much better than Gila,,, Cassano?? He also needs to go as someone you can turn to, .
on the 23rd March, 2014 at 11:03am
I like the sound of Cassano playing in behind Rossi & Balo/Immobile. We'd have to play with three cm's though as Pilro's lack of athletism would put too much of a work-load on his midfield partner (should Italy go with 2, rather than 3 cm's): Conte spotted this 3 years ago. As for Insigne, I like him but he is very wasteful in front of goal:either shooting from acute angles, or always aiming straight at the keeper.
on the 23rd March, 2014 at 10:51am

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