Your Guide to SA 2010 : Italy

FIFA Ranking: 5

The Defending Champions will obviously be among the top contenders for the Cup. With most of their stars playing their last World Cup this time, the Azzuri will look to live up to the official song of the tounament - ' When I get older, I will be Stronger '. And they do look really strong.

Last World Cup Journey:

Italy came into the World Cup 2006 with a point to prove. After the scandal at Juventus, it was a bad time for Italian football. They were placed with USA, Ghana and Czech Republic for the group stages. Winning two games comfortably and drawing against USA, they came up against Australia in the knockout stage. It took an injury time penalty to win that game after Italy played with ten men 40 odd minutes. It was disciplined defending that saw the Italians go to the quarter finals against ukraine which they comfortably won. The real challenge was the semi-final against hosts Germany. Del Peiro and Grosso scored a goal each in the second half of Extra time after a goalless 90 minutes to seal a berth in the finals for Italy. The 2006 World Cup final was a memorable affair. Zizou scored of a penalty awarded because of a challenge by Marco Materzzi. Materazzi scored off a Pirlo corner. The rest of the game was dominated by France but the scoreline remained level. Buffon's save denying Zidane a second goal was arguably the save of the tounament. Then Zidane was sent off and the game progressed to the penalties where the Italians buried every penalty to the back of the net, but the upright denied Trezeguet a goal and Italy were Champions.

The Manager:

Marcello Lippi was first appointed as the national coach in 2004 after two successful seasons with Juventus. He lead them to the Crown in 2006 but let go of his job after the victory, stating that his job for the country was done. After an ungracious exit from the Euro 2008 in the Quarter-finals under Roberto Donadoni, Lippi was recalled and here he is again. An amazing tactician, his genius is something the Italians will rely heavily upon.


Goalkeepers :
Gianluigi BUFFON, Federico MARCHETTI, Morgan DE SANCTIS

Christian MAGGIODomenico CRISCITO, Giorgio CHIELLINI, Fabio CANNAVARO, Salvatore BOCCHETTI, Gianluca ZAMBROTTA, Leonardo BONUCCI

Midfielders :
Daniele DE ROSSI, Simone PEPE, Gennaro GATTUSO, Claudio MARCHISIO, Mauro CAMORANESI, Angelo PALOMBO, Andrea PIRLO, Riccardo MONTOLIVO



Squad Strengths

The Defending Champions will be riding high on the experience of their veteran players and the genius of their manager to adapt to situations. It is necessary here to mention how Lippi changed the formation later on in the game against Germany in 2006 where he employed three forwards and an attacking midfielder and sure enough Italy was awarded with two goals in Extra time.

Squad Weakness

Of the 23 man squad, 9 players are aged above thirty and most of these 9 will be in the playing 11. Lippi will have to inject some youth and pace into the team to form the optimum medley.

Men to watch:

Gigi Buffon and Fabio Cannavaro are two players who inspired Italy to their win in 2006 and will look to repeat the same. With probably the best keeper in the world and another world-class centre back in front of him, scoring against the Azzuri is going to be a very difficult task. Another man who needs to be mentioned here is not a player but the manager Marcello Lippi. Do look out for his tactical changes as the tounament progresses.

FP Prediction

Italy will progress through the group stage pretty easily and with a great deal resilience should make it to the semis. They should also concede the least number of goals in the cup. From the semis onwards it will depend totally upon the geius of players to sniff out an oppurtunity and make the most of it.

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