ROME (AP) — Now that Giuseppe Rossi is back on Italy's squad, he doesn't plan to make the same mistake he made two seasons ago.
Rossi acknowledged on Tuesday that one of the reasons why he re-injured his right knee in April 2012, was because he was pushing too hard to return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in time for that year's European Championship.
The result was another year out and it's only been over the past month that Rossi has finally returned to form. "During my recovery I thought a lot about the future and I thought about being at the Euros and I paid the price," Rossi said at Italy's training camp in Florence. "I learned that I need to go step by step."
Rossi watched from home in New Jersey while Italy reached the final of Euro 2012 and finished third in this year's Confederations Cup. Italy's next big tournament is the World Cup in Brazil. Rossi was among the final players cut by then-coach Marcello Lippi from the squad for the 2010 World Cup, and going to Brazil next year is clearly on his mind.
"It's a dream for all of us," Rossi said. "But I've learned to take things day by day so I don't want to think too far ahead. I want to think about today's training for now, these matches, and Fiorentina. I can think about the World Cup later on. I hope I'm in great form when the callups are made."
The 26-year-old Rossi was a fixture in the attack of current Italy coach Cesare Prandelli until he first tore his ACL during a game against Real Madrid in October 2011 while with Spanish club Villarreal.
After three operations, Rossi transferred to Fiorentina in January but played only briefly in the final Serie A match of last season. In this campaign, he has six goals in nine matches for the Tuscan squad.
"It's a very important year for me," Rossi said. "I'm starting over from zero, as a new player. It's a new league for me and I have a lot of things to learn with a new coach and new teammates. So far it's been a good start."
However, Rossi picked up a few bruises over the last 10 days with Fiorentina and he remains questionable for Italy's final two World Cup qualifiers at Denmark on Friday and against Armenia in Naples four days later.
The Azzurri have already qualified, so neither he nor Italy's staff wants to push him into action too soon. "After two years out and so many matches grouped together so closely with Fiorentina it's been tough," Rossi said. "We'll see over these next few days but I never turn my back on a match."
Rossi's combination of skill and speed could provide the perfect complement to Mario Balotelli's strength and talent. "We all know Mario's characteristics but I would play well with any forward here," Rossi said. "It's an honor to be here after such a long time out."
Rossi was asked if he plays the "good boy" role to Balotelli's "bad boy" personality. "He's not bad. But nobody is a saint, not even me," Rossi said. "We have a lot of things in common. We all get along. It's a great group."
Having been away for so long, Rossi sees a major difference in this Italy squad from the one he left. "I find it's a much more mature group, and more confident, and that's really important," he said. Rossi was born in New Jersey to Italian immigrants and his father Fernando taught him to play and inspired him to seek out the Azzurri, even though he could have been a leader for the U.S. His dad died in 2010 and he was the first person Rossi thought about when asked who he would thank when he plays for Italy again.
"He's the one who got me here," Rossi said. "And I've also got to thank all the physiotherapists, in New York and Fiorentina, who helped me, too."
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