Italy
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The past
After falling at the first hurdle in 2006 and 2007, the Azzurri finally came good in 2008, reaching the final of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in Marseille, where Giancarlo Magrini's men produced a plucky performance in going down 5-3 to Brazil.

The present
Italy have made a habit of struggling in recent qualifying competitions, and this year was no exception as they squeezed through the play-offs to book their place at Dubai 2009. Having largely revamped the side that made them runners-up last year, the Italians have plenty to do to show that they belong in the global elite.

The future
At least three members of the squad are taking part in their first FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, an indication that the Italians will be travelling to Dubai with one eye on the future.

Facts and figures
Former stars
Maurizio Galli, Gianni Fruzzetti (2006 and 2007), Massimiliano Esposito (2008)

Key players
Stefano Spada (goalkeeper), Roberto Pasquali (defender), Simone Feudi (forward), Paolo Palmacci (forward)

Qualifying statistics
After easing their way into the last 16, the men in blue laboured to a 6-5 win over Belgium before falling 5-3 to Switzerland in the quarters. That defeat consigned them to the play-offs, where they beat France 4-2 in the deciding match to end the tournament with a record of 49 goals scored and 26 conceded in seven matches.

The numbers game
3 -
Italy's position in the Super Final of the Euro Beach Soccer League 2009, behind winners Russia and runners-up Portugal but ahead of rivals Spain. A sign of things to come perhaps?