Ever dangerous, the Azzurri have undergone a bit of a renaissance under manager Cesare Prandelli. The traditional defensive-minded style has gone out the window in favour of a more attractive attacking flair. An influx of young talent has also fortified Italy’s ranks, which means nobody should discount the Euro 2012 finalists’ chances of winning a fifth World Cup trophy.
Mercurial, controversial, and utterly brilliant, Mario Balotelli at times can make the best defenders look like weekend rec leaguers. Balotelli is a threat to score from anywhere thanks to his laser beam of a shot, and when he’s on his game nobody can push him off the ball. But his temper is often his undoing, and the AC Milan striker must stay focused to make an impact on the world’s biggest stage.
- World Cup Group: D
- Nickname: Azzurri
- Manager: Cesare Prandelli
- Captain: Gianluigi Buffon
- FIFA World Ranking: 9
- Best World Cup Result: Champions in 1934, 1938, 1982, 2006
- Qualification Method: 1st in UEFA Group B
Road to Rio
Italy was extremely clinical in qualification, taking control of what could’ve been a tricky group early to cruise to a spot in the World Cup.
The Azzurri went unbeaten (six wins, four draws) in a group that included challenging matches against Denmark, the Czech Republic, and Bulgaria, and the emphatic campaign has forged new confidence into a side that is experiencing a tactical revolution under Prandelli.
How they Fared in 2010
Italy’s title defence is probably something most fans want to forget. Despite having a relatively straightforward group, draws against Paraguay and New Zealand (yes you read that right) meant the Italians needed a win against Slovakia to advance to the knockout stages. Instead, Italy lost 3-2, and meekly exited South Africa last in Group F.
- Saturday June 14 -- England vs. Italy, 6 p.m. ET
- Friday June 20 -- Italy vs. Costa Rica, Noon ET
- Tuesday June 24 -- Italy vs. Uruguay, Noon ET
Hopes are high for Italy after an impressive showing in qualification and a second-place finish behind Spain in Euro 2012, and the Azzurri have a legitimate shot to contend for the trophy in Brazil.
But they’re in one of the toughest groups in the tournament, and for a notoriously slow-starting side that might prove trouble with matches against England and Uruguay looming.