Team Profile: Italy
Colours: Blue shirts, blue shorts and socks.
Nickname: Azzurri (the Blues)
Previous World Cup appearances: (16) 1934, 1938, 1950, 1954, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006
Best World Cup performance: Winners, 1934, 1938, 1982, 2006
Coach: Marcello Lippi
Most capped player: Fabio Cannavaro 132
Top scorer: Luigi Riva 35
FIFA Ranking: 5
The current World Champions don`t need any special introduction. After Brazil, Italy is the most successful national team on the planet with four titles. They last conquered Germany in 2006 and surprised the media and the football world. After a disappointing showing at Euro 2008 and the Confederations Cup a year later, Italian fans don`t believe in that the new `Lippi Boys` can triumph like four years ago however this scepticism can become a lethal weapon for Italy.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Italy qualified with a game to spare in Group 8 of the European qualifying zone. It wasn`t exciting, but pretty easy actually. The Italian team rarely played scintillating football during the qualification phase but they were undefeated nonetheless and Azzurri faithful are now looking to June of next year.
Marcello Lippi loves to speak about the group, the collective, the team. He doesn`t like individualism, that`s why cohesion is the most important Azzurri virtue. Like in 2006, if you remember. But Italy also have a solid defence led by Juventus trio Buffon, Cannavaro and Chiellini.
Italy`s biggest problem is in attack. The Azzurri lack a world class forward like Messi, Kaka or Torres. Gilardino, Iaquinta, Di Natale and Rossi are good players, but they don`t seem to be decisive. Maybe the return of Totti could change things...
Marcello Lippi is a winner. His honours is as complete as few others in the world: from Serie A to Champions League, from Intercontinental Cup to World Cup, nothing is missing. He has clear ideas and precise principles that he doesn`t betray even in front of popular uprisings. For this reason he`s disliked by many Italian fans, despite Germany 2006...
Gigi Buffon (Juventus): He`s back to being the best goalkeeper in the world after having spent some hard times with Juve in recent years. When Buffon is 100%, heis like a decisive playmaker or striker. He was one of the heroes of the Azzurri victory in Germany.
Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus): Fabio Cannavaro is still the leader of the team, but the best Italian defender is Giorgio Chiellini. He has grown amazingly in the last few seasons and is a guaranteed starter for Italy and Juventus.
Andrea Pirlo (Milan): If Pirlo plays well then his team plays well. The rule applies to Italy and AC Milan. Lippi has designed a new position on the field for the former Inter player, bringing him close to the strikers in the role of offensive playmaker. Will it be the decisive move for Azzurri ambitions?
BEST FOOTBALLING MOMENT
The 1982 and 2006 triumphs were unforgettable. During Spain `82 Azzurri defeated Argentina, Brazil and Germany, some of the best national teams in the world, Germany 2006 was a redemption after the Calciopoli scandal.
OFF THE PITCH
Famous for: Italy are the World Champions in football and the leaders in other areas. Food, fashion, sports cars and motorcycles... Italians do it better.
Most likely to: If you hear the chorus `Popopopopopopo` with the `Seven Nation Army` melody don`t fear, the Italian fans are coming...
WORLD CUP OBJECTIVE
The World Champions must fight to defend their crown, no excuses. An elimination before the semi-finals would be a complete failure.
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