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AC Milan midfielder Andrea Pirlo, left, will pull the creative strings for Italy at the Confederations Cup. ((Alex Livesey/Getty Images))

SCHEDULE AND RESULTS

FIRST ROUND       
MATCH  DATE - TIME  RESULTS  EXTRAS 
June 15 - 2:30 PM ET  <img src="/sports/soccer/FIFAconfederationscup/includes/imgs/flags/sml/italy.jpg" alt="Italy"/>[/CUSTOM] ITALY vs. <img src="/sports/soccer/FIFAconfederationscup/includes/imgs/flags/sml/usa.jpg" alt="United States"/>[/CUSTOM] UNITED STATES Game Report | Full Game Video  | Video Highlights | Game Tracker 
Venue: Tshwane/Pretoria - Final Result: Italy wins 3-1
June 18 - 2:30 PM ET  <img src="/sports/soccer/FIFAconfederationscup/includes/imgs/flags/sml/italy.jpg" alt="Italy"/>[/CUSTOM] ITALY vs. <img src="/sports/soccer/FIFAconfederationscup/includes/imgs/flags/sml/egypt.jpg" alt="Egypt"/>[/CUSTOM] EGYPT Game Report | Full Game Video  | Video Highlights  | Game Tracker  
Venue: Johannesburg - Final result: Egypt wins 1-0     
11  June 21 - 2:30 PM ET  <img src="/sports/soccer/FIFAconfederationscup/includes/imgs/flags/sml/italy.jpg" alt="Italy"/>[/CUSTOM] ITALY vs. <img src="/sports/soccer/FIFAconfederationscup/includes/imgs/flags/sml/brazil.jpg" alt="Brazil"/>[/CUSTOM] BRAZIL Game Report | Full Game Video  | Video Highlights  | Game Tracker   
Venue: Tshwane/Pretoria - Final result: Brazil wins 3-0     

SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Marco Amelia (Palermo), Morgan De Sanctis (Galatasaray, Turkey)

Defenders: Fabio Cannavaro (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Gianluca Zambrotta (AC Milan), Andrea Dossena (Liverpool, England), Alessandro Gamberini (Fiorentina), Fabio Grosso (Lyon, France), Nicola Legrottaglie (Juventus), Davide Santon (Inter Milan).

Midfielders: Mauro Camoranesi (Juventus), Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma), Simone Pepe (Udinese), Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan), Gennaro Gattuso (AC Milan), Riccardo Montolivo (Fiorentina), Angelo Palombo (Sampdoria).

Forwards: Alberto Gilardino (Fiorentina), Vincenzo Iaquinta (Juventus), Fabio Quagliarella (Udinese), Luca Toni (Bayern Munich, Germany), Giuseppe Rossi (Villarreal).

Coach: Marcello Lippi

SCOUTING REPORT

Probable starting formation: (GK) Buffon — (D) Cannavaro, Chiellini, Zambrotta, Grosso — (M) Camoranesi, De Rossi, Pirlo — (F) Quagliarella, Toni, Gilardino

Strengths

  • Stability at the back: A solid defence continues to be the foundation upon which Italy is built. The Italians can call upon defenders the calibre of veterans Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluca Zambrotta and Fabio Grosso, as well as enterprising youngsters such as Giorgio Chiellini and Davide Santon. And, of course, they are backed up by Gianluigi Buffon, regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
  • Attacking depth: Italy has several dangerous forwards they can rely on for goals, from traditional target-men Luca Toni and Vincenzo Iaquinta, to more creative players such as Fabio Quagliarella and Alberto Gilardino. Midfielders Mauro Camoranesi, Daniele De Rossi and Andrea Pirlo also lend their considerable skills and support to the Italian attack.
  • Coaching: Marcello Lippi has done it all, having won the Champions League and Serie A titles with Juventus, to leading Italy to World Cup glory in 2006. The Tuscan is a master tactician who gets the best from his players and who has few managerial peers.

Weaknesses

  • Inconsistency: Confidence is waning a bit in the Italian camp, despite Azzurri's World Cup victory in 2006. The Italians put in a weak performance at Euro 2008, they were outclassed in a 2-0 loss to Brazil in a recent exhibition game in London, and haven't looked entirely convincing in the qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup.
  • Pressure: As the reigning world champions, Italy will be put under the microscope by millions of soccer-mad fans back home – and the country's ruthless media. They also carry a big target on their backs, as every team at the Confederations Cup would love nothing more to knock off the world champions. Finishing in second place is not an option: anything less than victory in South Africa will be viewed as a disappointment.
  • Tough Group: Despite being the world champions, Italy shouldn't take a spot in the next round for granted. The U.S. provides a stern test for the Italians, as does African champion Egypt. Italy will have to take at least four points from those two contests, because its final game of the round is against Brazil, against whom achieving victory will be far from easy.

Players to watch

  • Gianluigi Buffon: Simply put, Buffon is one of the best goalkeepers in the world today. The Juventus star makes highlight-reel saves, efficiently organizes his defenders and is rarely caught out of position. Italy has nothing to worry about between the posts with Buffon.
  • Andrea Pirlo: A stylish playmaker who has won praise for his vast array of sublime skills. The AC Milan player is an astute reader of the game, possesses exquisite passing ability and is a dangerous scoring threat from set pieces. One of the world's best midfielders.
  • Giuseppe Rossi: Touted as the next Paolo Rossi – the legendary forward who propelled Italy to victory at the 1982 World Cup – Rossi is a natural goal scorer who can burn defenders with his speed and dribbling ability. The young Villarreal star could be one of the breakout stars of the tournament.

Key injuries/squad omissions: Lippi omitted Sampdoria forward Antonio Cassano, who has a reputation of petulance and child-like tantrums on the field when things don't go his way. Also missing from the Italian roster are veteran strikers Alessandro Del Piero of Juventus and AC Milan's Filippo Inzaghi.

ROAD TO FIFA CONFEDERATIONS CUP

2009 Confederations Cup qualification route: Italy booked its spot in South Africa by winning the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.

TEAM HISTORY

  • FIFA member since: 1905
  • Current FIFA ranking: #4
  • Team nickname: Azzurri
  • All-time caps leaders: Paolo Maldini (126)
  • All-time leading scorer: Gigi Riva (35 goals)
  • Number of previous Confederations Cup appearances: 0

Achievements

  • World Champions: 1934, 1938, 1982, 2006
  • European Champions: 1968
  • Under-21 European Champions: 1992, 1994, 1996, 2000, 2004
  • Under-19 European Champions: 1958, 2003
  • Olympic Gold Medal: 1936
  • Olympic Bronze Medal: 1928, 2004

Legends from the past

Dino Zoff: One of the best goalkeepers the world has ever known. Zoff was a key member of Italy's 1982 World Cup winning team. He earned 112 caps for Italy during his career, making him one of the most revered Italian sports figures in history. At 40 years of age, he is the oldest player to ever win the World Cup.

Paolo Rossi: The hero of the 1982 World Cup in Spain, Rossi was the top goal scorer in the tournament with six goals. His hat trick against Brazil in the quarterfinals sent the Azzurri on its way to capturing its third World Cup title. Voted European player of the year in 1982.