Italy forward Antonio Cassano was grateful for his first goal at Euro 2012 against the Republic of Ireland.
Heart surgery in November last year threatened to rule Cassano out of the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
The opening of his account coincided with a 2-0 win for Italy over Ireland which, combined with Spain’s victory over Croatia, set up a quarter-final date for Cesare Prandelli’s men against England.
“When I was recovering, my first thoughts were to go back to living,” Cassano told Sportmediaset.
“I’ve made 3000 sacrifices to be here, and my goal helping us to progress to the quarter-finals is a dream. Of course, when it’s someone like (Andrea) Pirlo taking the corner, it’s that much easier.”
The 29-year-old then lauded AC Milan’s decision to turn down Paris Saint-Germain’s massive bid for team-mate Thiago Silva, who has established himself as one of the world’s best defenders at the San Siro.
“I’m happy Thiago will be remaining at Milan next season,” Cassano said. “It was an obvious act of love to the club by the president.”
Silvio Berlusconi rejected an offer of 47 million euros that would have seen the centre-back reunited with former Milan coach Leonardo at the Ligue 1 side.
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