World Cup - Italy coach offers Cassano hope of realising dream

The sparkling form of Parma's Antonio Cassano has caught the eye of Italy manager Cesare Prandelli, who could reward the outspoken attacker with a place in Italy's World Cup squad.

Reuters
World Cup - Italy coach offers Cassano hope of realising dream
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Parma's Marco Parolo (top) celebrates with his team mate Antonio Cassano after scoring Parma's second goal against Inter Milan during their Italian Serie A soccer match at the San Siro stadium in Milan December 8, 2013 (Reuters)

Cassano's 11 league goals and fantastic all round play have been instrumental in Parma's rise to sixth in Serie A, a point behind fifth-placed Inter.

Despite not being selected by Prandelli since the 2012 European Championships, the 31-year-old, who has never been to the World Cup, has been told his age will be no barrier to selection for this year's finals in Brazil.

"After the European Championships we wanted to look forward, Cassano was 30 years old and we thought that other players would develop," Prandelli said in an interview with radio station RTL.

"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)?"

Cassano, who turns 32 the day before the World Cup final on July 13, has played his best football in years since moving to Roberto Donadoni's Parma.

They go into their home match with Genoa on Sunday (1130 GMT) knocking on the door of Europa League qualification after a club record 16-match unbeaten league run.

Cassano has not looked in such good shape or form since his three-and-a-half year spell at Sampdoria came to an end in 2011 after a public spat with then-president Riccardo Garrone.

The intervening years at AC Milan and Inter Milan were dominated by rows, while he was frequently overshadowed on the pitch by more high-profile talents such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

There were calls for his selection in the run-up to the last World Cup in 2010, but then-manager Marcello Lippi disagreed, preferring to stick by the World Cup-winning heroes of 2006.

Italy finished bottom of their group in South Africa after failing to win a game and suffering a humiliating 3-2 defeat to Slovakia.

Cassano has a colourful past but this season the bad behaviour or "Cassanate", has been missing, prompting calls for an Italy return from those who are desperate to see some guile and invention injected into the national team.

"Over the last few months Cassano has shown that he is well psychologically, so any choice I make will be entirely technical," added Prandelli.

Cassano said on Monday that he had lost 10 kilos after cutting out carbohydrate-heavy foods from his diet in a bid to attract Prandelli's attention.

"I don't know if there's still a chance but I'm doing everything to give Prandelli something to think about," he said.

"I have never played at a World Cup and it's something I'd love to do. I would be the happiest man in the world if it happened."

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