Monday 23 October 2017

World Cup team preview: Italy

Andrea Pirlo will once again play a pivotal role for the Italians
Andrea Pirlo will once again play a pivotal role for the Italians

There are 14 days to go until the World Cup kicks off and our team previews continue with four-time champions Italy.

Cesare Prandelli's side may not be the force of old but they remain a very, very dangerous opponent.

They have been consistent of not spectacular in recent times and the fact that there are no match-fixing claims heading into this major tournament must be a positive.

Italy rely on the experience of Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo and the enigmatic talents of Mario Balotelli and Pablo Osvaldo.

The resolve of Italian teams tends to solidify at World Cups and their focus and aggression in defence can frustrate the best of teams.

A tough draw will mean that they must compete with England and Uruguay to progress and they will relish the meeting with Roy Hodgson's young guns.

Group D: England, Costa Rica and Uruguay

Tournament odds: 25/1

How they got here

A very assured qualifying campaign saw the Italians saw them easily advance from Group B of the European Qualifying zone. A group that had looked tricky at the outset.

Having been drawn alongside Denmark, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria some expected Prandelli's side to struggle, but La Nazionale surged through unbeaten and booked their ticket to Brazil with time to spare, meaning they will head to the finals confident that their internal revolution has been a success.

Key player

Most of their genuinely world class operators are coming into the twilight of their careers,

Mario Balotelli is the one player who could explode into action and start banging in goals.

His temperament and his relationship with the Italian fans, that has been strained in recent times, will have to hold up if Italy are to have any chance of a fifth world title.

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Mario Balotelli

Something you didn't know about Italy

Forty percent of Italians aged 30 to 34 live with their parents. Over half of parents 65 or over live within a kilometre of a son or daughter.

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