Cassano recalled to Italy squad

August 27, 2006

ROME, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Italy coach Roberto Donadoni on Sunday named Real Madrid striker Antonio Cassano in the 24-man squad for the world champions' opening Euro 2008 qualifiers against Lithuania and France.

Cassano is considered one of Italy's most talented players but was left out of the World Cup squad by Donadoni's predecessor Marcello Lippi after struggling to win a starting place at Real.

The 24-year-old, who has scored three goals in eight previous international appearances, last played for the Azzurri in a 0-0 draw with Norway in June 2005.

His recall raises the prospect that Donadoni could field him along AC Milan's Alberto Gilardino - the other young star of Italian football.

Donadoni's squad includes many of the World Cup winners who were excused boots for the 2-0 defeat by Croatia in a friendly earlier this month.

Fans will be relieved to see Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso return for the Group B opener against Lithuania in Naples on Sept. 2 and the trip to Paris on Sept. 6.

There was no room in the squad, however, for strikers Luca Toni, Alessandro Del Piero, Francesco Totti and Vincenzo Iaquinta, all of whom are still short of full match fitness.

In their place, Donadoni has selected Tommasi Rocchi, who made his international debut against Croatia, and Sampdoria's uncapped Emiliano Bonazzoli.

At the back, Italy will be without Alessandro Nesta, who is injured, and Marco Materazzi, who is serving a two-match ban for verbally upsetting Zinedine Zidane before being head-butting by the Frenchman in the World Cup final.

Italy:

Goalkeepers: Christian Abbiati (Torino), Marco Amelia (Livorno), Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus).

Defenders: Andrea Barzagli (Palermo), Fabio Cannavaro (Real Madrid), Dario Dainelli (Fiorentina), Fabio Grosso (Inter Milan), Massimo Oddo (Lazio), Manuel Pasqual (Fiorentina), Cristian Zaccardo (Palermo), Gianluca Zambrotta (Barcelona)

Midfielders: Massimo Ambrosini (AC Milan), Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma), Gennaro Gattuso (AC Milan), Marco Marchionni (Juventus), Simone Perrotta (AS Roma), Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan), Franco Semioli (Chievo Verona).

Strikers: Emiliano Bonazzoli (Sampdoria), Antonio Cassano (Real Madrid), David Di Michele (Palermo), Alberto Gilardino (AC Milan), Filippo Inzaghi (AC Milan), Tommasi Rocchi (Lazio).