Italy

The past
One of Europe's leading sides at U-17 level during the 1980s, Italy, along with Hungary and the former West Germany, represented Europe at the inaugural edition of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in China PR in 1985. European champions in 1982 and 1987, the latter title was followed up by a fourth-place finish at Canada 1987 - the Azzurrini's best performance at the global U-17 event to date. Yet after competing at Japan 1993 they failed to return to the event until qualifying for Peru 2005, which came courtesy of victory over Croatia in the third-place play-off in that year's UEFA U-17 European Championship.

The present
The Azzurrini, drawn in Group A of the U-17 EURO 2009 in Germany, started inauspiciously with a goalless draw against reigning champions Spain and a 3-1 defeat by Switzerland, before winning their final group game against France. This 2-1 comeback success, secured via goals from Simone Dell'Agnello and Simone Sini, secured Italy's place at Nigeria 2009 and sent them through to the last four of the continental competition behind section winners Switzerland. Once there, Pasquale Salerno's young charges were beaten 2-0 by eventual winners and hosts Germany.

The future
Their ticket to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in the bag, Italy would dearly love to emulate the feats of the senior national side - the reigning world champions. A more realistic goal would be an improvement on their modest showings at previous editions of the U-17 showpiece and coach Salerno, who took the reins in summer 2008, will be confident of doing just that in Nigeria.

Facts and figures
Former stars
Gianluca Pessotto (1987), Alessandro Del Piero (1991), Gianluigi Buffon (1993), Francesco Totti (1993), Lorenzo Di Silvestri (2005).

Key players
Marco Fossati (midfielder), Alessandro De Vitis (captain), Simone Dell'Agnello (forward), Stephan El Shaarawi (forward) and Giaccomo Beretta (forward).

The numbers game
5 - The number of FIFA U-17 World Cups the Azzurrini have appeared at prior to Nigeria 2009.