World Cup Team Profile - Italy
Coach: Cesare Prandelli
Captain: Gigi Buffon (Juventus)
Full Italy Roster
The Road to Rio: In a balanced group that saw four of six teams finish within three points of one another, Italy was the clear cream of the crop. Going unbeaten in 10 matches, the Italian squad was able to take advantage with first-half goals in the majority of their qualifiers.
Amongst the first teams to qualify out of UEFA, the primary blemishes on Italy’s record came when the results ceased to matter to qualification. Armenia and Denmark were able to earn draws, but by then the Italians were well through to the final.
Mario Balotelli’s five goals were tops amongst all attackers in the group and Pablo Daniel Osvaldo chipped in an additional four for good measure. The Azzurri played it safe and smart, staying out ahead of the pack and letting the rest of the group fight amongst themselves.
Last World Cup appearance: South Africa 2010 (Group Stage)
First World Cup appearance: Italy 1934 (Champions)
Previous World Cup appearances: 17
Best World Cup finish: Champions (4 – Italy 1934, France 1938, Spain 1982, Germany 2006)
After capturing the 2006 World Cup, Italy went to South Africa with hopes of continuing their strong international play, only to collect just two points in a last place finish in their round robin group.
Heading to Brazil will be a lot of star power, especially that supplied by both Juventus and AC Milan two of the top teams in Italy. Not only will they have a veteran squad but the team will be very familiar with each other having played both domestically and internationally together for many years.
Leading the charge of veterans is Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo. There are very few things he can’t do with the ball and will be the key man in the middle keeping the Italian engine running. He has earned over 100 caps for his country and remains as strong a veteran presence as you will find in this tournament.
While Pirlo will be making magic with the ball, AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli will be a skilled and very physical presence up front trying to score goals for the Azzurri. He is as known for his goal scoring ability as he is for both his on the field and off the field drama that seems to follow him wherever he plays. He also has the ability to get hot and score goals in bunches, if he gets on one of those rolls Italy is going to be very tough to beat.
Playing in his fourth World Cup, first choice keeper and captain Gianluigi Buffon will be key to Italian success. His injury in South Africa is one of the main contributing factors to the team busting in the group stage. In 2006 he conceded only two goals for the entire tournament leading Italy into their fourth title.
Manager Cesare Prandelli has proven to be as good a tactician as a man manager and his leadership could be just what Italy needs to get back to the top of the mountain. England, Uruguay and Costa Rica stand between Italy and their place in the Round of 16. Group D is going to come down to the wire, there are no obvious favourites in the bunch but if Italy can play at the top of their game, it will be hard to not see them in the knockout stages.