The Azzurri qualified to Euro 2012 without being tested as coach Cesare Prandelli attempted to build the national team around younger and talented players such as Mario Balotelli and Giuseppe Rossi. Various niggling injuries and a plethora of ridiculous antics performed by Balotelli meant that Prandelli was not able to rely heavily on the controversial Manchester City attacker. Therefore, Milan’s Antonio Cassano was the focal point of Italy’s attack and Prandelli seemed to build around the talented yet unpredictable forward. Recently, the Italian boss received damaging news regarding the health and condition of two players: Cassano and Rossi.
Rossi is expected to be sidelined for several months and his absence will be felt since he offers better options for Prandelli when it comes to ball possession, creativity and passing as opposed to the more traditional attackers such as Giampaolo Pazzini. Rossi will likely recover in time for Euro 2012 but the question is whether he will be fit enough to make any notable contribution. In fact, Prandelli might exclude Rossi if the striker is unable to prove his fitness prior to the European championship.
A greater concern for Prandelli is the status of Cassano who has been influential during the qualifiers and who was performing at a high level with Milan as well. Cassano underwent a heart procedure and is expected to recover fully but there are some concerns about whether he will be able to mentally focus on his game and perform as good as witnessed in previous weeks once he returns to the pitch. Antonio has managed to provide 7 assists while scoring 2 goals in 9 Serie A matches for the Rossoneri, yet it is his international tally during the qualifiers which impresses the most. He managed to score 4 goals and provided 2 assists in just 6 qualifiers for the Azzurri.
Cassano shouldered the attacking responsibilities ranging from creating scoring opportunities to scoring by himself while the troubled Balotelli was absent. If Cassano does not return for Euro 2012, this will likely deal a heavy blow to Italy’s chances of lifting the European trophy next summer. Rossi’s injury has also added to Prandelli’s woes yet there appears to be one glimmer of hope in the shape of the enigmatic Balotelli who has been scoring regularly for the Citizens after a slow start to the season. Balotelli has managed 5 goals in just six Premiership matches, including three of which he appeared as a substitute.
It is too early to judge whether Cassano and Rossi will make the Euro 2012 squad but in the likelihood of their absence, this should serve as a great opportunity for Balotelli to set aside his reputation as a talented yet volatile and unreliable player. The next three months will be crucial in determining whether Cassano and Rossi have a chance of playing in Euro 2012 while Balotelli can confirm his fine form by continuing to find the back of the net while limiting his controversial acts on and off the pitch.