Azzurri not considered as one of the strong favourites for the tournament…
Under the guidance of Cesare Prandelli, Italy will be hopeful of making an impression in Brazil but they acknowledge their limitations ahead of the tournament and will hope to gain momentum as the World Cup progresses.
Perhaps the biggest criticism of this squad is the lack of individual star quality as the likes of Alessandro Del Piero, Francesco Totti et al are no longer in the picture and the Azzurri have struggled to add that flair and creativity behind the striker.
Nevertheless, what Prandelli does have is a hard-working squad of 23 players that still have quality, and with a new style of football being implemented by the former Fiorentina coach, they are undoubtedly more pleasing on the eye.
Their run to the final of Euro 2012 was testament to the early work Prandelli had done, while a third-place finish in the Confederations Cup last summer was a continuation of his development of the squad as a number of younger, fresher faces were introduced to the national set-up.
Admittedly, Italy will depend on two stalwarts to inspire them during this tournament, with Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo set for pivotal roles this summer and they will ultimately impact on how far they are able to advance.
With a significant Juventus presence, the familiarity between the players at international level has perhaps been key, with a combination of Juve and Milan stars making up the defensive line.
Naturally, the initial thought for many opponents is to perhaps man-mark Pirlo and restrict the time and space he has on the ball, but Prandelli is blessed with a talented midfield despite the loss of Riccardo Montolivo through injury, with other individuals capable of dictating the game.
In particular, Daniele De Rossi will look to have an impact this summer in both the defensive and offensive phases of the game, while Marco Verratti could well be promoted to the starting line-up after impressing in Paris.
While Italy have rarely done well in friendlies over the years, Prandelli will have been delighted with the impact made by both Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne in the 5-3 win over Fluminense.
It has been a memorable summer for Immobile already given the fact that he has secured a move to Dortmund, been called up to the national squad and earned his first cap whilst also getting married in the space of a few weeks.
His hat-trick and two assists on Sunday night would have given Mario Balotelli a warning that he will have to perform, as Italy have in-form options on the bench who are capable of turning the game if required.
Nevertheless, Prandelli continues to face criticism over his inability to settle on a preferred system and formation, although based on recent games it is likely that he will opt for a 4-1-3-2.
While it could be argued that the level of unpredictability and flexibility are positive aspects of this squad given that they are comfortable switching to a back three if needed, it would perhaps be more beneficial for the players if they had a settled formation to work with.
Along with Uruguay and England, Group D promises to be one of the more intriguing groups in the World Cup, and Italy will undoubtedly be relishing the challenges ahead.
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