Italy

Quick facts

Group: A (BrazilJapanMexico)

FIFA ranking: 8

Confederation: UEFA

Head coach: Cesare Prandelli

Best result: First round in 2009

Qualification method: 2012 Euro runner-up

First-round schedule: Mexico (June 16 @ 3 p.m. ET), Japan (June 19 @ 6 p.m. ET), Brazil (June 22 @ 3 p.m. ET)

Storylines

  • Like fine wine. On a team where youth prevails and the spotlight is usually on talented newcomers like Stephan El Shaarawy or Mario Balotelli, the two most important pillars of the team can be forgotten: Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and midfielder Andrea Pirlo. The Juventus teammates continue to show they are among the best at their respective positions at both the club and international level. Buffon, 35, was given the 2012 Serie A goalkeeper of the year award again in January, the ninth time he has won the trophy, while Pirlo, 34, was the 2012 player of the year in Italy. Both veterans led Italy to last year’s Euro final, where the Italians fell to Spain. It's very accurate to say Italy's Confederations Cup destiny lies in the hands of "Gigi" and "The Architect."  
  • Mario and the boys. Italian coach Cesare Prandelli’s first choice in attack during the tournament and probably the World Cup next year is Balotelli. The AC Milan striker has been on a hot scoring streak all 2013 for both his club and national team, going from an unreliable source of goals and a volatile personality on the field to one of the most important pieces in Italy’s offensive structure. But the Azzurri swagger doesn’t end there, as Balotelli will be supported by Milan teammate El Shaarawy and Juventus’ Sebastian Giovinco, two of the most skilled and exciting players to watch in Serie A. Known worldwide for a defensive style of play and strong defenders, Italy now has one of the most dangerous forward combinations too.
  • Time to make a statement. The second most decorated country in soccer history has only qualified for the Confederations Cup once, finishing with a disappointing group-stage elimination in 2009. With four World Cup titles and one European championship to their name, Italy is ready to take over the main stage in Brazil and bring a new title home.

Key player

Since being transferred from the English Premier League’s Manchester City to Italian Serie A powerhouse AC Milan in January, controversial striker Mario Balotelli has been as effective as they come. The 22-year-old forward scored 12 goals in 13 games and looks to carry this momentum into Brazil as he leads the group in attack.

When playing his game, Balotelli is unstoppable and his world-class skills can easily break the best defensive lines in the world into pieces.

Squad

  • Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus-ITA), Federico Marchetti (Lazio-ITA), Salvatore Sirigu (PSG-FRA)
  • Defenders: Ignazio Abate (AC Milan-ITA), Davide Astori (Cagliari-ITA), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus-ITA), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus-ITA), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus-ITA), Mattia De Sciglio (AC Milan-ITA), Christian Maggio (Napoli-ITA)
  • Midfielders: Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina-ITA), Antonio Candreva (Lazio-ITA), Daniele De Rossi (Roma-ITA), Alessandro Diamanti (Bologna-ITA), Emanuele Giaccherini (Juventus-ITA), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus-ITA), Riccardo Montolivo (AC Milan-ITA), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus-ITA)
  • Forwards: Mario Balotelli (AC Milan-ITA), Alessio Cerci (Torino-ITA), Stephan El Shaarawy (AC Milan-ITA), Alberto Gilardino (Bologna-ITA), Sebastian Giovinco (Juventus-ITA).