Wednesday June 11 2014
Cassano-Balotelli v.2?

Can Antonio Cassano rekindle his Euro 2012 partnership with Mario Balotelli at the 2014 World Cup? Luca Cetta considers Italy’s options.

Cesare Prandelli admitted after Euro 2012 that he was moving in a different direction. This meant, perhaps shockingly, no place for Antonio Cassano. Not for the first time, the Bari native would have to overcome obstacles to prove himself worthy of the Italian shirt.

As Italy set about securing their World Cup spot in record time, Prandelli still found no place for FantAntonio. Even when impressing at new club Parma he looked a snowball’s chance in hell. “I have 0.0 per cent chance of making the World Cup,” Cassano declared in January.

Then, a glimmer of hope. “After the European Championship we wanted to look forward. Cassano was 30 years old and we thought that other players would develop,” Prandelli said in March. “If these players have not developed as we had hoped and a player is playing better at 32 than he did at 30, then why not [select him]?”

Nonetheless, Cassano still looked likely to miss his third World Cup. Prandelli: “I must give the utmost faith in a squad that took us to the World Cup with two matches to spare.” Never considered by Marcello Lippi, Cassano’s biggest impact at a major tournament was in his third, at Euro 2012.

There he formed an exciting partnership with Mario Balotelli. The ex-Sampdoria man started all six matches, but having just returned from heart surgery, did not have the legs to finish any. He started alongside Balotelli five times and netted once. It has taken nearly two years to see Cassano don the shirt once more.

A stellar season – 12 goals in 34 games – for Parma was the result of a more focused FantAntonio. “I’m a player that has had and thrown away a lot of opportunities, and I’ve always been that way. But now I want to think less about what has been and more about the present. The present is what I would like to have – the World Cup,” he declared earlier this year.

Prandelli obliged: “He put himself back up for the challenge and he won. At that age, he realised it was his last chance.”

Cassano was included in the 30-man preliminary squad and by all reports impressed sufficiently at Coverciano to be assured a spot. Following a friendly with the Republic of Ireland, Cassano realised his dream. Against Luxembourg last week he showed the flair and invention of a player enjoying his football. Cassano immediately created openings for Balotelli, rekindling memories of two years prior.

At this World Cup Prandelli has a number of systems up his sleeve and Cassano could play an important role in just about all. He links up well with Balotelli – Super Mario leading the line and Cassano allowed to roam. They do not crowd each other’s space and have enough different characteristics to complement one another. He was one of the two attacking players behind Balotelli against Luxembourg and looked impressive. Cassano would also prove useful in a trident attack. That’s the sort of versatility Prandelli is counting on. And there’s not the fitness issues of Euro 2012 to deal with. A leaner Cassano played 90 minutes for Parma in 18 of his 33 Serie A starts.

What Cassano and Balotelli hold over the other attacking options is international experience, and as a result, goals. They are the only ones to have participated in a major tournament and with 12 and 10 goals respectively, are the most prolific.

If not them, who could start against England? A Corriere dello Sport poll asked whether Ciro Immobile or Balotelli should play and the overwhelming response – 86 per cent to 14 – favoured the new Borussia Dortmund striker. Immobile was Serie A’s leading scorer and showed his prowess against Fluminense by netting a hat-trick. Would Prandelli play both? “Everything is possible, but playing two central strikers when you have quality players in midfield tends to be a forced decision.”

It’s not the end of the decision making. Aside from Cassano, there’s Lorenzo Insigne to consider. He was on the end of two Immobile assists on Sunday and recalling their days at Pescara, said: “Even though we haven’t played together at club level for two years, we still need just a glance to understand each other.” Immobile’s other partner in crime, Alessio Cerci, is another who can make use of the space in behind a main striker.

Prandelli could take the framework from Luxembourg and look towards one – or both – of Claudio Marchisio and Antonio Candreva. The pair would also be charged with stemming the flow from England’s full-backs.

Yet from having no chance of making the squad to an impressive return, it would not be a surprise to see Cassano make an impact. He and Balotelli showed what they could do two years ago and for FantAntonio, an impressive tournament would be the culmination of a personal and professional rejuvenation.

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Have your say...
Wouldn't it be great if we had a striker like van persie? well actually we do have a striker that can score, he finished top scorer in serie A playing for relatively small club in comparison to milan, inter and juve, unfortunately we will be subjected to balotelli before we can see a real striker take the field! My hope is CP give balotelli his run out if he proves his critics right he must be taken off quickly, if he proves his critics wrong and plays for the team and makes an effort then great
on the 14th June, 2014 at 11:02am
FORZA AZZURRI !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
on the 14th June, 2014 at 8:04am
Some laughable messages. Some of you can't even spell our players names right. Anyway my starting lineup-


Abate Chiellini Barzagli Darmian

De Rossi

Pirlo Verratti Marchisio



Marchisio full of running, Cassano the link, and as good as he is, Daniele needs to sit more often that not for me, getting caught from the counter and the long ball over the top worry me. Forza Italia
on the 13th June, 2014 at 9:42pm
balotelli may not be as clinical as some strikers but he can score a goal out of nothing and he usually performs in the big games.(at least 4 italy)
on the 13th June, 2014 at 5:23pm
This is such a moot argument. If you guys think that - in these conditions, fatigue effects, muscle problems, and ref's penchant for judging Italy harshly with cards - that all of the strikers won't be relied upon heavily, you're dreaming. They will both play extensively at various points. Frankly, I don't see how whoever starts against Costa Rica in Manaus at noon next Fri will be able to get up for Uruguay 4 days later. And that goes for several positions.
on the 13th June, 2014 at 1:37pm
De Rossi should be our captain...he can be Italy's Cannavaro; leading and winning tackles. I'd like to put Chiellini running left flank, Barzagli and Paletta CB and Darmian RB. De Rossi protecting these...Pirlo, Verratti, Marchisio Midfield, Balo and Immobile upfront. Candreva is not the answer when you need a win.
on the 13th June, 2014 at 1:36pm
Immobile should start. He's been the best Italian forward for the better part of the year. The one player consistently scoring goals. Looking at the lineup that Prandelli is rumored to be putting out there with Candreva as support…get ready for a 0-0 scoreline. Don't Italian managers ever learn from the past?
on the 13th June, 2014 at 1:23pm
@ Tardelli '82 I agree 100%. With De Sciglio's injury we now do not have a "natural" left back (not that De Sciglio is left footed). We're left with a choice between Chiellini whose a CB or Darmian whose also right footed. The decision not to bring another left back might come back to haunt Prandelli.

Candreva in the hole is a terrible idea but hey Prandelli has done a good job so far. There's usually method to his madness. Its not going to be pretty on Saturday.
on the 13th June, 2014 at 8:26am
Pirlo and Veratti both starting.

England are so hung up on man marking Pirlo they forgot about Veratti.Now they have a dilemma.They can't contain both and I can see alot of balls reaching Balo through their defence and over it too.

Then you have Rossi protecting these two so I can't see England reaching the back four.
Our defence will be sending them a postcard
'Wish you were here'.
on the 13th June, 2014 at 7:25am
Am surprised Cassano doesn't look like he'll be in the team to face England.

Against Ireland he made a difference as soon as he came on.
on the 12th June, 2014 at 10:26pm
Maldini's Hair, MnMs and Jenkins, please don't turn this forum into

Would be happy to see Casano and Ballo or Imobile and Insigne. Either way they can be replaced by the other pair. Either in game or against Uraguy.

The bigger issue is who plays in the advanced role. Please not Candreva.

If De Sciglio is crocked then we need Criscito back!

Forza Azzurri
on the 12th June, 2014 at 8:23pm
Maldinosaurio, You insist that he is a "leading goal scorer", so be it. Many tifosi have had enough of this prima donna holding up the space that other strikers who are more clinical than he could have filled in. 
on the 12th June, 2014 at 6:19pm
I just don't understand CP...Reports suggest Verratti will partner Pirlo on Saturday...which is great news, but reports also state that Marchisio, Candreva and Balotelli are also in the team. My question, what is the point of having two of the best (three if you count De Rossi) passers of the game playing only to feed the likes of who??? Candreva??? & an Off-form Balotelli??? I got a sinking feeling that they'll be some amazing passes on Sat but with no goals to show for it.
on the 12th June, 2014 at 4:35pm
@ Jenkins I think you've showed us your views. Freedom of expression can be a tricky concept sometimes. Its as if some views are considered unacceptable by most people. The stats speak for themselves and the rationale for starting with your leading goalscorer is blindingly obvious to anyone who is not massively prejudiced. Please don't support Italy at the world cup. In fact in this multi-cultural world I think you'll struggle to find any team to support. That's the problem with progress...
on the 12th June, 2014 at 3:38pm
Maldini's Heir (how I detest that profile you stole):

Which is better? These young, hungry kids like Immobile, Insigne, Cerci scoring against Fluminense?
Or Balotelli on the pitch, rarely scoring anything (look at the recent friendlies)?

We have not won in the last 7 matches, my friend!

The English have Balotelli in their pockets if he plays. They know him! Why not shock them with some new blood on Saturday? We will LOSE with long balls from Pirlo to Baloteli for 90 mins.
on the 12th June, 2014 at 2:53pm
I have for years read negative inputs around balotelli, it's a shame that you still have so much spite against him. I actually understand the way he feels every now and then. Why Always me? Start support him and he will flourish keep hating and he will keep up with he's stupid attitude.
on the 12th June, 2014 at 2:37pm
@ Sanrella Exactly. I think we'll have to bear with all of the players given the state of the pitch and the level of humidity. If people are expecting fast paced football then they're going to be disappointed. The conditions actually suit players like Balo and Cassano who are economic with their movement. This is not a game for all action players. For Balo another performance like against Mexico would be perfect.
on the 12th June, 2014 at 1:37pm
Right now I think I'm more concerned with the state of the pitch at Manaus rather than Balo and Immb.

Italy are the superior passing side so this will affect us more than England.
on the 12th June, 2014 at 10:23am
Being able to score in the 3/4th strongest league in Europe doesn't mean you can score in the world's top competition.
Not only does Immb have little international experience but as far as I know he's also not played in Europe for his club.

We should start with Balo but I'm not one for giving him chance after chance after chance.If he shows little effort against England then drag him off and leave him off for the next game.
Maybe he would have more impact as a sub.
on the 12th June, 2014 at 6:19am
I think Jenkins and mm have shown their true colours. There's not much point further to discussing this with them. Happy to have a sensible discussion with people who aren't obsessed with the colour of a person's skin.
on the 12th June, 2014 at 12:05am
Ok, look at it this way- balo has had lots of managers put lots of faith in him- its that faith that has given him much more match time than other players in the same role- immobile scored a hatrick, so?? Forget the hatrick- look at the season hes had, look at his attitude, temperament, work rate, plays with pride. I watcb balo and he looks bored, fed up and angry at the whole team coz he didnt get a pass to his toe- so heaven forbid he had to move alittle! Its excuse after excuse!
on the 11th June, 2014 at 10:17pm
starting 11 vs England should be

darmain barzagli chiellini de sciglio
de rossi
verrati marchisio pirlo insigne

this team will smash england! they are scared of immobile because they dont know me i am italian living in uk and they want balotelli!
immobile,pirlo,verratti could terrorise..

forza italia
on the 11th June, 2014 at 10:14pm
If Balo is a waste of space then who's the answer?
Immobile?Just because he scored a hat trick against a Brazilian league side?

Let's not get carried away.Let's not write off Balo and let's not think Immobile is our ticket to the world cup final.
Both will have the chance to prove their worth.
on the 11th June, 2014 at 9:58pm
I don't really cared if 86% of the surveyed (assuming all Italians) voted for Immobile. They also voted twice for Berlusconi! See how that went. The truth is that even if Mario doesn't score, he helped others to score goals. And defenders from big teams are scared of him. In the Nigeria game, he drew almost all the opponents' defenders to the right with him, and Giaccherini had all the space to score a goal. The same in Brazil game in Confed Cup. Nobody marked Giaccherini for the first goal.
on the 11th June, 2014 at 9:54pm
Very good, Football Italia. Censoring some things on here that you don't feel we should say. Freedom expression doesn't matter if you criticize certain people.
on the 11th June, 2014 at 9:46pm
In the Euro, Mario scored his first goal after being benched in Croatia game and most of that Ireland game. So, some competition is good to keep him from being complacent.
on the 11th June, 2014 at 9:45pm
Thank god for you!
Maldini heir does the same crap everytime he runs out of things to say regarding balo- he always bangs on about racism- funny ogbonna and okaka never seem to have any problems, and he bangs on about a white player doing what balo did in euros- I ask, what did he do?? Apart from 1 good goal against germany! Its unbelievable the hype around such an average player- 86% is loud and clear- fans are fed up with a striker that doesnt score!!
on the 11th June, 2014 at 9:42pm
Jenkins. Since you mentioned Ireland, it was Mario's first goal in the Euro, volleying a ball while having his shirt held by the Irish defender. On the other hand, Immobile was played in the front with Rossi in Ireland game, missed some clear chances.
on the 11th June, 2014 at 9:41pm
Please, Maldini's Heir. Please. It is only a matter of time before Immobile takes the place of Balotelli in the tournament, simply because he scores goals. The sooner, the better. I had a friend tell me how he suspects Balotelli is there for political reasons (integration). 
on the 11th June, 2014 at 8:19pm
England surely KNOWS how to contain Balotelli. It would be stupid to start him. They are not so familiar with Immobile! Balotelli also is not a runner.

Vai Immobile, vai!
on the 11th June, 2014 at 6:54pm

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