Antonio Cassano hasn’t sported an Azzurri jersey since the final of Euro 2012, but the in-form Parma striker is working overtime to force his way into Italy coach Cesare Prandelli’s thoughts ahead of the World Cup.
The Bari native, who has had spells with his hometown team plus Roma, Real Madrid, Sampdoria and both Milan clubs during a checkered career, recently stated that he’s slimmed down by ten kilograms to try and catch Prandelli’s eye ahead of this summer’s samba jamboree.
Italy are, of course, in England’s World Cup Group D and 6/4 favourites to top a mini-league that also includes Uruguay and Costa Rica.
The Three Lions are third-favourites at 5/2 behind the Azzurri and the South Americans to emerge from the group in the strongest position, but their task may become even greater if Prandelli adds Cassano to his already strong striking ranks.
Only eight players have scored more Serie A goals than the 31-year-old’s tally of 11 this term and just five of them – Giuseppe Rossi, Luca Toni, Ciro Immobile, Alberto Gilardino and Domenico Berardi – qualify to play for Italy.
Toni hasn’t turned out for the national team since 2009 and 19-year-old Berardi is yet to make his Azzurri debut, while Immobile’s first and so far only cap came at the start of March in the 1-0 friendly loss against Spain.
With former Manchester United forward Rossi far from certain to be fully fit for Brazil, having missed Fiorentina’s last 13 fixtures with a knee injury, Prandelli may well turn to Cassano if he continues to fire Parma up Italy’s top flight
The Ducali are currently sixth, just one point behind Inter and two behind the Viola with a game in hand on both sides, after going unbeaten in the league since the second week in November.
Roberto Donadoni’s side have won eight of their last ten in Serie A and Cassano has struck home four times in his last five appearances for the club.