Best: Winners 1934, 1938, 1982, 2006
Group: D (vs England, Uruguay, Costa Rica)
Coach: Cesare Prandelli
With Italian domestic football in a state of constant crisis after the 2006 Italian Football Scandal, the Azzuri must be going into this tournament with their heads in a bit of a mess. Coach Prandelli has done well to recover in that past 4 years, making the EURO 2012 final is something (even though they were unraveled by Spain). Not only has he had to deal with domestic hooliganism and racism, he has had many egos to buffer.
Man to Watch:
Mario Balotelli will lead the attack (whether folk in his homeland like it or not). The youngster has a had a rocky road in Serie A and is reportedly looking for a return to England, despite finishing the season as AC Milan’s top scorer. Apparently the grass was not greener on the other side. The World Cup is perfect opportunity to show his mantle, if he can keep his cool. He has a troubled history with just about every manager he’s worked with and his off-field antics have given him a reputation. But if Prandelli can manage to find some common ground with the Ghanaian born he may be able to flourish.
Age. Italy are banking on Andrea Pirlo and Gigi Buffon to lead the team to glory, but both these veterans will be playing their 4th World Cup and have a combined age of 70! As flawless as they are, they are going to tire when they come up against younger opponents.
So can they win?
The Italians can always, in one excellent display, overcome any of the big names, even if it means parking the bus. So despite their recent shortcomings, I always rate them to be major contenders. They are likely to get out of their group, but then they face the formidable Spain, where they are likely to crash out.
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris St Germain), Mattia Perin (Genoa)
Defenders: Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorigo Chiellini (Juventus), Gabriel Paletta (Parma), Andrea Ranocchia (Inter Milan), Ignazio Abate (AC Milan), Mattia De Sciglio (AC Milan), Christian Maggio (Napoli), Matteo Darmian (Torino), Manuel Pasqual (Fiorentina)
Midfielders: Andrea Pirlo (Juventus), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Thiago Motta (Paris St Germain), Marco Verratti (Paris St Germain), Riccardo Montolivo (AC Milan), Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma), Antonio Candreva (Lazio), Marco Parolo (Parma), Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina), Romulo (Verona)
Forwards: Mario Balotelli (AC Milan), Antonio Cassano (Parma), Alessio Cerci (Torino), Ciro Immobile (Torino), Giuseppe Rossi (Fiorentina), Mattia Destro (AS Roma), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli)