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Rocky plans KO punch to impress the boss

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz

Roque Santa Cruz aims to show City boss Roberto Mancini just what he's been missing as the fit-again Blues striker leads the Paraguay line at the World Cup.

"Rocky", signed by Mark Hughes from Blackburn last summer, had to cope with an injury-ravaged season while watching Carlos Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor make hay in the Premier League.

But the eager 28-year-old former Bayern ace is itching for a starring role on football's biggest stage, starting with tonight's tough Group F clash with Mancini's Italy in Cape Town.

Santa said: "I've got a good relationship with the manager and I joked with him a lot about this game, though he didn't have to tell me about Italy's team. They are a major team with big stars."

City too have big stars, and Mancini's summer shopping for more quality recruits could step up the pressure for a player who started only five Premier League games, scoring three goals.

He said: "They could get important players, so we'll see what I should do. It's been frustrating not to have been as fit as I would have liked in my first season.

The team did well, but it was a tough season for me



"I couldn't play as many games as I wanted, and you have so few opportunities to score, which is what strikers are paid to do.

"When you've not been fit, sometimes you want to do too much and you push yourself too far. That happened a few times. But every time I play now I feel good, and that I can do well."

A goal against the world champions at Green Point Stadium would be a real feather in Roque's cap as well as a reminder to Mancini of his worth to the Blues' cause next season.

He said: "Paraguay have never been so strong at a World Cup. We're a good team and can do something special. Italy are known for their defence, but we are strong in attack."

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