Slimline Cassano still hoping for World Cup call up

(Reuters) - Antonio Cassano says he has stopped gobbling focaccine, lost 10 kilos and is waiting for Italy coach Cesare Prandelli to call him up in time for the World Cup.

Inter Milan's Antonio Cassano reacts during their Europa League soccer match against Tottenham Hotspur at the San Siro stadium in Milan March 14, 2013. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo

The 31-year-old has not been picked by Prandelli since Euro 2012 when he formed the striking partnership with Mario Balotelli. But his fitness and form this season, with 11 Serie A goals for Parma, has raised his hopes that he could get a last-minute recall.

“I can’t do better than this. I don’t know if there’s still a chance but I’m doing everything in my power to give Prandelli something to think about,” he said after scoring twice in a 4-2 win away to former club AC Milan on Sunday

“Now, I’m slim, before I was Cicciobello (the name of an Italian doll),” he added. “I’ve lost 10 kilos to go to Brazil. I’m on a diet and I’ve stopped eating focaccine (mini foccacia), except for once a week.

“I have never played at a World Cup and it’s something I’d love to do. I would be the happiest man in the world if it happened.”

Cassano, born in Bari, has had a colourful career which has taken him to AS Roma, Sampdoria, Real Madrid, AC Milan and their rivals Inter and has been marked by tantrums and personality clashes.

During Euro 2012, he embarrassed Italy when he said he hoped there were no homosexuals in squad, later apologising for the remark.

Last season, he was dropped by then Inter coach Andrea Stramaccioni after a dressing room row and moved to Parma in the close season.

This season has seen him back to his effervescent best, helping Parma climb to sixth following an unbeaten 16-match run.

Cassano missed the 2006 World Cup due to his poor form at Real Madrid, where he had a reputation for putting on weight, and the 2010 tournament after falling out with coach Marcello Lippi.

Frustrated at being left out, Cassano scheduled his wedding during the South Africa tournament and then said he would not postpone it, even if he was recalled.

“Is there a magic formula for dealing with Cassano. I’m not saying, otherwise I’ll make it too easy for the others,” said Parma coach Roberto Donadoni after Sunday’s game.

“In reality, it just takes common sense, balance and flexibility. If you refuse to budge from your position, you end up clashing so you just have to get off the pedestal and find a compromise.

“Cassano knows that he just has to play wherever I put him and I’d say it works.”

Club president Tommaso Ghirardi said the prospect of a World Cup had inspired Cassano.

“He’s one of best in Italy, everyone knows that,” Ghirardi said in a television interview on Saturday. “He’s professional and he’s matured greatly. The World Cup dream is making him put in more effort this season.”

Reporting by Brian Homewood; editing by Justin Palmer