Italy Team Preview

The Players

Gianluigi Buffon (captain) goalkeeper, Juventus

Mattia De Sciglio defender, Milan

Giorgio Chiellini defender, Juventus

Matteo Darmian defender, Torino

Thiago Motta midfielder, Paris Saint-Germain

Antonio Candreva midfielder, Lazio

Ignazio Abate defender, Milan

Claudio Marchisio midfielder, Juventus

Mario Balotelli forward, Milan

10 Antonio Cassano forward, Parma

11 Alessio Cerci forward, Torino

12 Salvatore Sirigu goalkeeper, Paris Saint-Germain

13 Mattia Perin goalkeeper, Genoa

14 Alberto Aquilani midfielder, Fiorentina

15 Andrea Barzagli defender, Juventus

16 Daniele De Rossi midfielder, Roma

17 Ciro Immobile forward, Torino

18 Marco Parolo midfielder, Parma

19 Leonardo Bonucci defender, Juventus

20 Gabriel Paletta defender, Parma

21 Andrea Pirlo midfielder, Juventus

22 Lorenzo Insigne forward, Napoli

23 Marco Verratti midfielder, Paris Saint-Germain

Star man

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One of the least star-studded Italian squads in living memory, a reflection perhaps of Serie A’s reduced status. That leaves the superannuated Andrea Pirlo, even at a stately 35, as their top draw. Despite his advancing years, there are few better conductors in the game than the Juventus playmaker. There are younger legs and livelier talents in this squad but for one last time at a major tournament just sit back and savour each and every perfectly-placed pass from Andrea Pirlo.

Most likely to be sent home in disgrace …
Mario”Why Always Me?  Balotelli. Why? Lets not ruin the surprise.

The coach

Cesare Prandelli has rejected the stereotypes and turned into a stylish attacking side. He has held on to at least one Italian tradition however: there will not be a better-groomed manager at this World Cup.

Grudge match

Italy love nothing more than annoying France, from Marco Materazzi’s masterclass in the 2006 final, all the way to 1938 when the team were sent out to play in black shirts, a strip with clear fascist overtones sported purely to annoy the Parisian crowd.

Holed up

There have been hygiene problems at Italy’s secluded beachside Portobello Resort in Mangaratiba, 85km outside Rio. Health and safety officials raided the hotel and confiscated 50kg of fish, butter, ham and other foodstuffs past their sell-by dates. The hotel was also warned for not providing condoms to guests as is required under Brazilian law. The team doctor, Enrico Castellecci, said that Italy were planning to bring most of their own food and chefs in any case: “It hasn’t created a problem for us but of, course, it’s not pleasing.”

How they qualified
Does it really matter? They are there. They are always there. OK then, they strolled their group finishing six points clear of Denmark in second place.

World Cup high
England can never forget 1966, but most Italians probably can’t even name the four, yes four, times they have won the World Cup. The 2006 victory stands out as a triumph against the odds played out to a backdrop of scandal and controversy.

World Cup low
Defeat on penalties to Argentina on home soil in the 1990 semi-final.

Familiar faces
No one in England, though Liverpool fans might recall Alberto Aquilani.

Title odds: 20/1

The stereotype is …
Solid defence, counter attack, slow starters, tournament know-how, lavish gestures, long hair.

The reality is …
Free (ish) flowing attacking football, dodgy defence, lavish gestures, long hair. The Italians, as always, are at their best when sitting back patiently and waiting for teams to make mistakes, or pass themselves out, before hitting them on the counter. Think José Mourinho’s Chelsea, only with more expensive cologne. Balotelli’s evisceration of Germany in Euro 2012 stands as the recent high point, though Italy held their own against world and European champions Spain at the Confederations Cup, before doing what they so often do, losing a penalty shootout. Prandelli says he has been drilling his team to line up 4-3-1-2 or 3-5-2 because he has to “organise how to get to the final”. How’s that for ambition, Roy?

What they’re known for
La Dolce Vita 30 per cent
Pasta 18 per cent
Their hair 12 per cent
Their mothers 40 per cent

How Google translates the national anthem
We were for centuries downtrodden and derided, we are not one people, we are divided.

How long does it last?
One minute 40 seconds of chest-pumping national pride. Note to any budding young countries out there: this is how you do a national anthem.

How to dress like their fans

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It’s almost impossible for an outsider to look like an Italian man or woman so instead try and behave like them, which basically involves overreacting to every single incident waving your hands in the air and looking to the heavens in disgust.

Commentator’s go-to stat
Only Brazil (93) and Germany (99) have played more games in World Cup finals than Italy (83). The Italians have drawn more games than anyone else (21).

 

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One thought on “Italy Team Preview

  1. Pingback: Group D Preview, Uruguay, Italy, England and Costa Rica | World Cup 2014 – BRAZIL

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