World Ranking: 5th
Best World Cup finish: Champions (2006, 1982, 1938, 1934)
Coach: Marcello Lippi
Projected Starting Eleven: (GK) Gianluigi Buffon – (D) Gianluca Zambrotta, Fabio Cannavaro, Giorgio Chiellini, Domenico Criscito – (M) Daniele De Rossi, Andrea Pirlo, Mauro Camoranesi, Angelo Palombo, Simone Pepe – (F) Alberto Gilardino
(GK) Gigi Buffon– One of Italy’s main arguments to have the capability to repeat is having one of the best goalies in the world. With soccer being a low scoring sport, having a strong goalie can take a team far in the tournament.
(M)Andrea Pirlo- Pirlo has the ability to put the ball where players should be and can do it better than most other midfielders in the game today. Simply put, when Pirlo does good, then the rest of the Italian squad will follow suit. Coach Lippi is hoping to position Pirlo into becoming a strong offensive playmaker. The bad news about Pirlo: he will miss the first two games of the tournament this year due to injuries, but plans on playing in the third game against Slovakia.
(M) Daniele De Rossi- Heralded as the next captain of team Italy, De Rossi brings a strong two way game to the Italian squad with the ability to score goals, like he did in the 2008-09 World Cup qualifying matches, and shut down an oppositions attack, especially in big games.
Italy’s biggest strength is its overall TEAM. The squad doesn’t have an all-star striker on its roster, nor does it have an all-star defensive player, they have solid, all-around depth. They also have a very successful coach in Marcello Lippi, who was the man behind the 2006 World Cup Champion squad and one of the best motivators the game has ever seen in terms of coaches. Nine players from the 2006 team will be returning for an attempt to defend its title, so the veteran presence will definitely be a major factor for success.
While having nine players return from a Championship team can be a great advantage, leaving out youth in order to accommodate the vets could end up hurting the team in the long run. Lippi left off some strong players that could have helped this team in its attempt to once again hoist the World Cup such as Giuseppe Rossi who was by far Italy’s top player in the Confederations Cup this past year, and defender Fabio Grosso, who was the player responsible for the decisive penalty kick to win the 2006 World Cup Championship. History also has Italy’s number as there has not been a team to repeat as World Cup Champions since Brazil did it in 1962, but if the Blackhawks can win their first cup since 1961, the Italians can be the first repeat Champions since then too.
Obviously as the defending champions Italy is ‘the team to beat’ thus any opponent Italy faces, they need to be prepared to face the best the other team has to offer. Italy is also a team that strives under pressure and loves to prove the analysts wrong, just like they did in 2006, so look for them to do it again this year. With the top goaltender in the tournament and a strong defensive unit being coached by the tricky and tactical Marcello Lippi, Italy cannot be counted out like they constantly are, so keep an eye out for this squad to come out guns-a-blazing to keep the World Cup in the majestic hills of Italy.