Italy divided over Bari Bawler squad snub

Italy is divided once more on the eve of two vital World Cup qualifiers.

In the blue corner those supporting national team coach Marcello Lippi, and seeing red in the other are those up in arms at Antonio Cassano’s continued exile from the squad.

The Cassano corner is slightly more crowded if the polls on the gazzetta.it and repubblica.it websites are anything to go by: 80 percent of the estimated 60,000-odd readers would have the 'Bari Bawler' back in a blue shirt.

Cassano: Peeved 

Basically, it is the fans against the pros, with Lippi receiving support from former Italy coaches including Arrigo Sacchi and Enzo Bearzot.

Both of those old-stagers had their run-ins with ‘creative talent’ ahead of World Cup campaigns – Sacchi and Gianluca Vialli in 1994 and Bearzot with Evaristo Beccalossi before the 1982 triumph – and would be expected to side with the establishment. Lippi won the 2006 World Cup by keeping the likes of Francesco Totti and Alex Del Piero in check, although both were so glad just to be picked in the squad for Germany that they weren’t likely to rock the boat.

Plus it was the ‘them against us’ mentality right in the eye of the Calciopoli storm that saw the Azzurri through.

In what has probably been one of the dullest selections in recent times – some of it caused by injuries – the country has been calling out for a little fantasia, or at least some colour to brighten up the monastic atmosphere hanging over the camp.

Certainly, the press conferences could do with a few Cassano-esque utterances as one bland comment follows another.

If this is any indication of the game plan, then maybe the team should run out in grey kits for the Montenegro and Ireland encounters.

Those days of the 'Cassanata' - where he would have an on-pitch meltdown - seem to have receded into the dark distance past.

The love of a good woman seems to have helped. Never the most handsome of souls, Cassano seemed to compensate for his lack of looks by trading on his fame and wealth to bed a, if to be believed, mind-blowing number of women.

Now apparently settled, he no longer has to prove himself - off the field anyway - and his on-pitch exploits no longer come wrapped up with the self-destructive tendencies which marred most of last season.

Pazzini: Propelled 

Playing in a workmanlike Sampdoria side this season, you would have expected him to crumble. But instead he has dragged the team out of the depths of mediocrity.

There has been no self-pity and his flicks and deft touches have helped propel Giampaolo Pazzini into the international set-up.

Pazzini may get a game at the weekend, but he must be wishing that his club team-mate was alongside him to provide the vision of a brighter future for the national team.

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