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FIFA World Cup 2013: Early Favourites (Part 1) – Italy

Thursday, June 12, 2014 – The biggest carnival in the world kicks off in the land of carnivals. There are only 346 days to go the World Cup in Brazil, so we take a look at the early favourites for the biggest prize in world football. We will be covering different countries in this SIX part series. The performances of the teams over the last decade have been taken int

Italy's national football team poses for pictures before the start of their FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 third-place football match against Uruguay, at the Fonte Nova Arena in Salvador, on June 30, 2013. (Getty Images)

Italy’s national football team poses for pictures before the start of their FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013 third-place football match against Uruguay, at the Fonte Nova Arena in Salvador, on June 30, 2013. (Getty Images)

June 12, 2014 – the biggest carnival in the world kicks off in the land of carnivals. We are less than a year away from the World Cup in Brazil, so let’s take a look at the early favourites for the biggest prize in world football.

I‘ll be covering different countries in this six part series. The performances of the teams over the last decade have been taken into account.

In part one I take a look at Italy.

The Nerazzuri have had a tumultuous few years on the international as well as the domestic scene. But in the typical Italian fashion of “Eseguiamo quando le spalle sono contro il muro” (We perform when our backs are against the wall), the Italians have had some eventful international tournaments since 2006.

It all started at the fag-end of 2005 when several Italian clubs were accused of rigging games by selecting favourable referees. The ‘Calciopoli’ tarnished the reputation of Italian football and left the morale of the team at an all-time low.

But what followed, was one of the greatest responses by a football team culminating in the lifting of the World Cup in Berlin. Sadly, the days to follow would push Italian football to its nadir.

A similar situation erupted in early 2012 and again the Italian team rose like a phoenix to reach the finals of Euro 2012, consigning the ignominious first round exit at the 2010 World Cup to history.

Add to that, the recent performance of the team in the just concluded Confederations Cup, one senses the team is on the rise.

Squad

Cesare Prandelli has fashioned a tactically tight Italian outfit, which relies on discipline and a little bit of flair to win games. Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Pirlo and Mario Balotelli form the spine of his first team, which has been supplemented with the right mix of youth and experience.

Defence 

The Italians no longer employ the famed ‘Catenaccio’ (the chain), but are difficult to score against nonetheless. A backline featuring Andrea Barzagli, Davide Astori, Angelo Ogbonna, Leonardo Bonucci and Chiellini offers consistency and experience.

The presence of Mattia De Sciglio, aged 20, is a breath of fresh air among down the flanks. While Buffon isn’t getting any younger, he commands the penalty area and the backline in front of him.

The foundations of all good teams are laid on a good defence. Hence, the presence of this stable backline in next year’s World Cup is crucial.

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