Italy coach Marcello Lippi has refused to elaborate on his decision to omit in-form Sampdoria playmaker Antonio Cassano for Saturday’s trip to Montenegro and the home match with Ireland on April 1.
“You know I only talk about players that are here,” Lippi told a press conference.
“I don’t have to give reasons for my decisions. I have my convictions and I don’t have to give explanations. And that’s not because I’m arrogant.”
The former Bari, Roma and Real Madrid forward had a reputation as troublemaker on and off the pitch but has matured in his two seasons at Samp, leading to calls for him to be recalled to the national side.
He was in Roberto Donadoni’s Euro 2008 squad but Lippi has continued to overlook him alongside 34-year-old Juventus striker Alessandro Del Piero.
Cassano’s Samp team mate Giampaolo Pazzini, included in an Azzurri squad for the first time, defended Lippi.
“It is easier to score than in the past thanks to Cassano’s passes but I’ve also created a lot of goals myself,” said Pazzini.
“Let’s remember that Lippi is a world champion and it is up to him to make the final decision. For me to reach the national team is a great satisfaction. I will try to keep hold of this shirt. I don’t hold any grudges against Fiorentina.”