The beaten finalists at UEFA EURO 2012, Italy will be Europe’s representatives at the FIFA Confederations Cup as their conquerors Spain are also the reigning world champions. In a quirk of the draw, the two eventual finalists began the EURO in the same group, the pair sharing the spoils in a 1-1 draw in their opening match. Growing in confidence as the competition progressed, Italy qualified from their section in second place following a 1-1 draw with Croatia and a 2-0 victory over Republic of Ireland.
Come the last eight, La Nazionale sank England 4-2 on penalties after a goalless draw, with the shoot-out notable for an ice-cool Panenka-style chipped finish by Andrea Pirlo. Gli Azzurri then pulled off something of a shock in the semi-finals by downing Germany 2-1, thanks to two goals from Mario Balotelli, only to run out of steam come the final, when La Roja stormed to an emphatic 4-0 success.
The current crop
World champions in 2006 under Marcello Lippi, the Italians suffered a dispiriting first-round exit at South Africa 2010, an unexpected setback that has brought about a changing of the guard. Turning to a younger generation under Cesare Prandelli, La Nazionale seem to have recovered their poise, while adopting an attacking game some way removed from the catenaccio style favoured by previous Italy teams.
The key players
Captain and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is the one of the only survivors from their 2006 triumph in Germany, with a host of youngsters now breaking into the team, such as naturalised Brazilian holding midfielder Thiago Motta. Up front the transition from old to new has been even more dramatic thanks to the emergence of Stephan El Shaarawy, who offers options alongside the dangerous Giuseppe Rossi. Also with a vital role to play are the maverick duo of Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano, still served by pass master Andrea Pirlo.
Coach: Cesare Prandelli
Best performances in a FIFA competition: FIFA World Cup Italy 1934, France 1938, Spain 1982 and Germany 2006 (Winners), Men's Olympic Football Tournament Berlin 1936 (Winners)
Former stars: Dino Zoff, Paolo Maldini, Silvio Piola
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