Alessandro Nuccorini, coach of the Italian Futsal national team, makes no secret of his respect for the other contenders in "the toughest group in the World Cup," as he told "After Russia and Spain, Portugal are one of the best teams in the world. They’ve yet to win a trophy, but they’re undoubtedly ready for it. Thailand are much improved thanks to their European coach, and they’re strong and enthusiastic too. The USA are physically powerful and capable of troubling anyone. And Paraguay are one of the best teams in South America," Nuccorini declared.

The Italians open their FIFA Futsal World Cup Group B campaign against Thailand in Rio de Janeiro on 30 September. Nuccorini’s men are odds-on to win the match, but despite finishing runners-up at the last FIFA World Cup and the 2007 UEFA Futsal Championship, the Italian coach denied his men were favourites this time around: "Brazil and Spain are favourites to win the trophy. Portugal and Russia could be the surprises of the tournament."

Despite this, Nuccorini is expecting great things in Brazil. "We’ll give it our best shot in every match. I think this will be the best World Cup ever. We’re playing in fantastic halls, in front of brilliant crowds, and with huge media interest. All these factors will contribute to a terrific World Cup."

Italy are appearing at the FIFA Futsal World Cup for the fifth time. After qualifying at a canter, much is expected of the versatile southern Europeans, as Nuccorini revealed in a exclusive interview: "We’re not bound to a single set of tactics. We try and stay flexible whenever we can. We’ve practised a number of attacking formations which we’ll use depending on the situation in a match. We defend aggressively without resorting to unfair means. Recovering possession is our top priority, although we also revert to zonal marking at times."

However, Nuccorini is without one of his stalwarts at the FIFA Futsal World Cup in Brazil. "There are genuinely vital players in every team. Vinicius Bacaro could have been one of those for us, but unfortunately he’s out of the World Cup. We still have plenty of good players, although I wouldn’t single out any one of them, as teamwork and unity are our strengths," the coach explained.

The next few weeks will indicate whether the Italians have what it takes to cast off the unwanted mantle of perennial runners-up behind Spain. One thing is for sure, the beaten Futsal EURO finalists boast the kind of quality needed for a serious tilt at the world crown.