Soccer-Euro-I was born tired, says Italy joker Cassano

KRAKOW, Poland, June 12 Tue Jun 12, 2012 5:15pm BST

KRAKOW, Poland, June 12 (Reuters) - Italy forward Antonio Cassano brought his inimitable brand of humour to Euro 2012 on Tuesday, saying he was "born tired" and did not like scoring goals.

At times he had reporters and the translator in hysterics during a news conference most pundits thought would never be allowed to happen by the Italian federation given his penchant for outrageous remarks and bizarre quips.

Asked about catching Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas late during their Group C opener on Sunday, the 29-year-old said: "I was born tired and I have to rest."

Strike partner Mario Balotelli wasted a great opportunity against the holders when he dallied too long on the ball and Cassano had advice for his team mate.

"I thought 'give me the ball'. Mario told me he wanted to give me the ball and he didn't know Sergio Ramos was there.

"If it had been me I would have given him the ball, I don't like scoring."

After another question about his fellow forward, he barbed: "Are we only talking about Balotelli today?", while he became laughably exasperated when asked if he preferred playing with the Manchester City man or Antonio Di Natale.

"Do you think I would tell you? It's the same. The important thing is that I am there," he joked before being probed about whether Balotelli might one day join him among the mass ranks of forwards at AC Milan.

"Do you want us to play a 5-5-5 formation?"

There was a serious side to Cassano, though.

He resumed playing last month after undergoing minor heart surgery last November after falling ill on the plane back from a match against AS Roma, sidelining him just as he had hit one of the best spells of his career.

His congenital illness affected his brain and there were fears he would never play again.

"I'll tell you the truth, before this match (against Spain) a lot of times I thought I don't know why I am here," he said, acknowledging he still cannot play a full 90 minutes.

"I was ill, I didn't know if I could play again. I want to be a challenger at the Euros, I'm not here to waste time.

"I don't wish the problem I had on anyone. Luckily I am here, I have been blessed."

Cassano was ignored by previous coach Marcello Lippi, who thought the former wild child could still not be trusted at the 2010 World Cup, but he was top scorer in Euro qualifying.

The Azzurri next face in-form Croatia on Thursday in Poznan and Cassano, who thinks Italy could go all the way in the tournament, said their main danger was playmaker Luka Modric.

The jokes returned, however, and the biggest laugh came when he said with a straight face: "I am a serious person." (Editing by Ed Osmond)