Italy have contested 17 of the 19 FIFA World Cup™ final tournaments held to date. Since failing to enter a team for Uruguay 1930, they have missed out on qualification only once, finishing second behind Northern Ireland in Group 8 of the Sweden 1958 qualifying competition. Masters in the art of reaching major competitions, over the years the Italians have developed the knack of recovering from faltering starts to finish strongly and book their finals place just in time.
FIFA World Cup finals history
With four world titles to their name (1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006) and two runners-up slots (1970 and 1994), Italy lie second only to Brazil on the all-time FIFA World Cup honours board. La Squadra Azzurra are also the only team along with the Brazilians to have won the competition twice in a row. Their 4-3 semi-final defeat of West Germany at Mexico 1970 is widely regarded as one of the most spectacular matches in the history of the tournament.
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, 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 only survivor from their 2006 triumph in Germany, with a host of youngsters now breaking into the team, such as central defender Andrea Ranocchia, while naturalised Brazilian holding midfielder Thiago Motta has also made a couple of appearances for his adopted country. Up front the transition from old to new has been even more dramatic thanks to the emergence of Giampaolo Pazzini, a formidable presence in the air, and old-style centre-forward Alessandro Matri, both of whom offer options alongside the dangerous Giuseppe Rossi. Also with a vital role to play are the maverick duo of Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano.
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