Cassano choice shocks some in Italy

Antonio Cassano is a surprise inclusion in the 24-man draft Italy squad for UEFA EURO 2008™, on the day coach Roberto Donadoni announced he has signed a new contract.

Long absence
Striker Cassano has had an excellent season with UC Sampdoria but has not played for Italy since a September 2006 qualifier against France. "I'm not taking any chances with Cassano," explained Donadoni. "He is not a youngster any more and knows what it means to be a member of a group. I know perfectly well what he can give in technical terms." The 25-year-old, on loan from Real Madrid CF, scored ten goals in 22 Serie A games for sixth-placed Sampdoria.

Inzaghi excluded
Juventus captain Alessandro Del Piero, 33, is also included after scoring 21 goals this term – his best tally since 1997/98 – to finish as the top flight's leading scorer. However, there is no place for AC Milan forward Filippo Inzaghi or for Massimo Oddo and Vincenzo Iaquinta, who are struggling with injuries. "I have called up 24 players and they will compete for the 23 places," said Donadoni.

'Gesture of trust'
Donadoni also revealed that he has put pen to paper on a new deal with the Italian Football Federation, expiring in 2010. "I'm delighted with the new contract because I consider it a show of faith from the federation," he said. Both parties can cancel the deal depending on results at UEFA EURO 2008™, with Donadoni saying: "I'll be the first to step down if we don't get good results."

Training plans
The squad will train at the FA's Coverciano HQ between 25 and 28 May before facing Belgium in Florence on 30 May in their last friendly before the finals in Austria and Switzerland. The Azzurri play their opening Group C game against the Netherlands in Berne on 9 June. They then meet Romania on 13 June and France four days later.

Italy squad
Goalkeepers: Marco Amelia (AS Livorno Calcio), Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Morgan De Sanctis (Sevilla FC).

Defenders: Andrea Barzagli (US Città di Palermo), Fabio Cannavaro (Real Madrid CF), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Fabio Grosso (Olympique Lyonnais), Marco Materazzi (FC Internazionale Milano), Christian Panucci (AS Roma), Gianluca Zambrotta (FC Barcelona).

Midfielders: Massimo Ambrosini (AC Milan), Alberto Aquilani (AS Roma), Mauro Camoranesi (Juventus), Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma), Gennaro Gattuso (AC Milan), Riccardo Montolivo (ACF Fiorentina), Simone Perrotta (AS Roma), Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan).

Forwards: Marco Borriello (Genoa CFC), Antonio Cassano (UC Sampdoria), Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus), Antonio Di Natale (Udinese Calcio), Fabio Quagliarella (Udinese Calcio), Luca Toni (FC Bayern München).