Lippi defiant over Cassano omission

Italy coach Marcello Lippi has defended his decision to leave Sampdoria striker Antonio Cassano out of his squad for the upcoming two World Cup qualifiers.

Italy coach Marcello Lippi has defended his decision to leave Sampdoria striker Antonio Cassano out of his squad for the upcoming two World Cup qualifiers.

Despite notching 10 goals and 15 assists in Serie A this season, Cassano, who was in the squad for Euro 2008, continues to be overlooked by Lippi.

“I don’t need to give any explanation regarding my team selection,” Lippi said, when asked about Cassano’s omission.

“I have my own ideas and I don’t need to explain them.

“It’s not because I’m arrogant, but I’d rather work with those that are here.”

Cassano’s career has been turbulent despite him being only 26.

Deemed a prodigy at Bari, he became labelled an ’enfant terrible’ for frequent shows of petulance which included spats with former Roma coach Fabio Capello and on-pitch arguments with referees, opponents and even team-mates.

He seemed to have left the bad times in the past when he earned a place in former Italy coach Roberto Donadoni’s European Championship squad.

A return for the games against Montenegro and the Republic of Ireland seemed likely, particularly with Bayern Munich forward Luca Toni and Fiorentina striker Alberto Gilardino sidelined through injury, but he has been snubbed since Lippi took charge for a second time after Euro 2008.

Cassano’s Sampdoria teammate Giampaolo Pazzini, who is in Lippi’s 23-man squad, said: “Cassano is a very strong player, but it is Lippi that makes the decision and it has to be respected.”

Pazzini could make his debut in Podgorica when the Italians play Montenegro on Saturday.

He has scored 11 goals in 12 appearances since joining Samp from Fiorentina in January.

“When Alberto Gilardino got injured, the first player that came to mind was Pazzini,” said Lippi.

A home fixture against Ireland, who are level with Italy at the top of Group Eight, follows on Wednesday next week.

“So far we have done well,” Lippi said. “We have collected 10 points in four games.

“But there’s another team, Ireland, which has done the same as we have.

“I think Ireland will be our main rivals to finish top of our group.”

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