Italy forward Antonio Cassano insists he wants to leave the past behind as he prepares to lead the forward line in Tuesday’s Euro 2012 qualifier against the Faroe Islands here.
Cassano was the star of the show in Italy’s laboured 2-1 win in Estonia on Friday, scoring the equaliser and then setting up Leonardo Bonucci’s winner with a cheeky backheel.
It is with such influential performances that Cassano hopes to banish unwanted memories, such as the pain of missing out on Italy selection for the World Cup.
Cassano has played in two European Championships but each time has been left out of the subsequent World Cup squad, both times by Marcello Lippi.
Cassano insists he has nothing against Lippi and just wants to concentrate on serving current coach Cesare Prandelli — for whom he played briefly at Roma — and trying to make the next World Cup.
“I don’t want to talk about the World Cup. I’m thinking about the present and I have to say that Prandelli has been fantastic,” he said.
“At Roma I was a bit crazy, I made his life difficult, I made mistakes and then he left for family reasons (Prandelli’s wife was ill at the time and later died while he was coach of Fiorentina).
“We’ve come back together here (for Italy) and he’s delighted to have seen that I’ve changed.
“He’s made me feel important, also on a human level. He’s a first-class coach and you’ll see how great he’ll make Italy.”
Cassano said he also owed something to his club coach last season Luigi Delneri, whom he also played for at Roma, for converting him into a deep-lying forward, the position he now occupies for the national side.
Delneri kicked him out of the squad during his brief Roma reign and dropped him from the match-day squad for a few games at Sampdoria last season as well.
“I also owe Delneri thanks, he’s a real man. At Samp he wanted me to play as a second striker, I wasn’t doing that so he dropped me.
“I got angry but when I came back I did that, I scored goals and he made me devastating.”
And it has been his form since joining Sampdoria in the 2007/08 season that has finally brought him back into the Italy fold.
Cassano has been a far from regular fixture in the Italy set-up since making his debut in 2003, but he’s not pointing his finger at anyone.
“In seven years I’ve been in and out of the national team set-up and that’s my fault,” he said.
“I’ve made mistakes. I’ve been the man of the Euros but now I want to stay right up to the World Cup (in 2014). I’ll be 32 and I won’t get another chance.
“If I mess up again, don’t give me a cross for my back, I’ve not done anything stupid for four years.”
And he revealed that something fundamental that has changed has been his willingness to play for the team rather than for himself.
“I’ve changed in terms of my character, but not as a player. Before I thought I was the best in the world, I played to do stupid things like backheels and nut-megs.
“But only one player could win a match on his own, Diego (Maradona) and that’s it.
“I understood that and started to think the same way as the others. Now I play with my 10 team-mates.”
Prandelli will be expecting Cassano to shine again at the Stadio Artemio Franchi against a team ranked 118th in the world.
The coach is unlikely to make too many changes from the side that beat Estonia, although he may opt to switch goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu.
The Palermo stopper was at fault for Estonia’s goal and looked a bit shaky at times, meaning Bologna’s Emiliano Viviano could take over between the sticks.
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