The past
Undisputed members of the European elite, Italy have a reputation for coming up short on the big occasions, their last two appearances at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup both ending in first-round elimination.

The present
The ever-cautious Italians endured a scare or two in qualifying at Benidorm. An all-too-narrow 4-2 defeat of Azerbaijan was followed by a 2-1 extra-time win over Greece. And in their final game, the match for third place, Giancarlo Magrini's side came off second best against Russia, going down 4-2.

The future
The outlook is good for the boys in blue. With a young and ambitious squad, they could well make an impression at the finals for the first time. The only man over 30 is their captain and taskmaster Roberto Pasquali, while defender Michele Leghissa has made enormous strides for the second season running. Rest assured, the best is yet to come from the Azzurri.

Facts
Former stars
Maurizio Galli, Gianni Fruzzetti (2006 and 2007)

Key players
Simone Feudi (midfielder), Roberto Pasquali (midfielder), Paolo Palmacci (forward)

Qualifying statistics
The Italians won five of their seven encounters at Benidorm, scoring 28 goals and conceding ten in the process.

The numbers game
10:
The number worn by Azzurri star Diego Armando Maradona Jr, the offspring of the inimitable Argentinian playmaker.