MILAN (AP) — Giuseppe Rossi always knew he would not be in Italy’s World Cup squad according to national coach Cesare Prandelli, who also revealed on Tuesday that the United States-born forward almost wasn’t included in the provisional list.
Speaking for the first time since revealing his 23-man squad on Sunday, Prandelli explained he had been clear with Rossi since meeting with the forward in early May, shortly after his comeback from a four-month injury layoff.
“I met Giuseppe Rossi on May 7, before giving the 30,” Prandelli said. “I wanted to speak to him, tell him that he had played very little time. I was going with the intention to tell him he wasn’t in the 30. Then I understood that it could be something nice and a strong message for everyone.
“I told him that moment that he wasn’t in the 23…I repeated it twice. I also told him that it was a very hard decision because he is an extraordinary lad. I told him several times: “Beppe, you’re not in the 23.” We began to work. He always worked well, with enthusiasm. Everyone knew their role.”
Rossi was leading Serie A’s leading scorer with 14 goals in 17 matches for Fiorentina when he reinjured his right knee in January, sidelining him for four months.
Before Saturday’s friendly international against Ireland, the 27-year-old had played just 140 minutes at club level since returning to action.
“Before the last match I told him you’re good from a physical point of view, but that I wanted to see more on the pitch, the actions that a footballer unconsciously does,” Prandelli said. “I wanted to see a forward that plays as a forward. I even took off (Ciro) Immobile to see if that would help, but I didn’t see that which I should have seen.
“It would have been easy to pick him, everyone would have been happy. But it would have been too much of a risk. I told him he hadn’t completed his recovery. Obviously I’m surprised at certain reactions.”
Rossi and those close to him have expressed their disappointment and surprise at the striker’s exclusion, while fans have vented their dismay on social networking sites.
Rossi also took to Twitter on Monday to dismiss speculation that he was dropped because of fitness concerns.
While Rossi has returned home to New Jersey, the Italy squad has left its training base at Coverciano, near Florence, and switched to Perugia, where the Azzurri will play Luxembourg in a friendly on Wednesday before flying out to Brazil the following day.
There were fears earlier over goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu and forward Mario Balotelli.
Sirigu was taken to hospital on Monday night with pain in his ribs after his final save in an evening training session.
“Fortunately, tests have ruled out fractures,” Italy doctor Enrico Castellacci said. “The lad has badly bruised the right 11th rib, with post-impact swelling. It is a tedious and painful injury, but manageable. Now, we are much more relaxed. In short, there is no reason to alert possible replacements.”
Sirigu will refrain from making any diving saves in the next few practices.
Balotelli has trained normally despite complaints of pain and amid reports he has a groin injury. Prandelli confirmed the AC Milan forward is in the starting XI for the match against Luxembourg.
“Balotelli is very well,” Prandelli added. “He’s fatigued, but from all the work. I’ve never seen him work so hard. He is in extraordinary form.”
Castellacci said earlier that Balotelli had overstretched his adductor muscles, but that the staff were “managing it calmly.”
Italy opens its World Cup campaign against England in Group D on June 14, before then facing Costa Rica on June 20 and Uruguay on June 24.
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.