Confederations cup preview: Italy

In terms of history, pedigree and recognition, it doesn’t get much bigger than the Italian national team. The famous Azzuri remain one of the most respected teams in world football. They have featured in 18 FIFA senior world cups and have won the famous trophy on four occasions. A feat surpassed only by Brazil with five stars to their name. The Azurri though, have only won the European championship once and have come close recently. They were seconds away from victory in the 2000 championships but they somehow snatched defeat from the hands of victory allowing France to be crowned. Last year though, they were comprehensively trounced by Spain in the final and for the fact that Spain are currently world champions, Italy qualified for this year’s confederations cup through the ‘back door’ as runners up from the European championship.

    Italy have bad memories from their only previous outing in the FIFA confederations cup in 2009 in South Africa. They qualified as world champions and were hot favourites. They started brightly beating eventual finalists United States 3-1 in their first game. It all went downhill from there as they shockingly lost their next game 1-0 to then African champions Egypt and were spanked in a counter attacking masterclass 3-0 by Robinho and Kaka as Brazil ran riot. The mighty Italy crashed out at the group stage as it was to be twelve months later in the world cup. It ushered the end of an era. Since then, Italy have turned to youth for improvement.

Coach Cesare Preandelli named eight members of the triumphant Juventus squad to his team for the Confederations cup from which Bonucci and Barzagli are expected to man the central defence and Giorgio Chiellini most likely playing from the left. The ever present Gigi Buffon remains in goal as team captain. Most importantly will be the influence of Andrea Pirlo in the midfield. The conductor to the orchestra, his fluid passing and impeccable ability from set pieces will prove key to the success of his team. His performance against England in last year’s European championships remains arguably one of the finest midfield displays I have ever watched. Milan’s Ricardo Montolivo is expected to add the necessary energy and graft in the midfield. Upfront, Prandelli might most likely rely on the pace of Stephan El- Shawary and the goal threat of Mario Balotelli. The eccentric but hugely talented Balotelli grabbed 12 goals in 13 appearances for the Rossonerri of Milan when he joined in the January transfer window and he was the star of the show in last summer’s European championships especially his display against Germany and few will ever forget his famous bare chested goal celebration in that game. Prandelli favours a more attacking system of play which is a huge seismic shift from the ‘Catennacio’ defensive style adopted by his predecessors. To make this system work, Prandelli must coax the best performances from Balotelli and his other key players

    s Ranking: Italy are currently ranked 8th in the world by FIFA and currently top their world cup qualifying group leading second placed Bulgaria by 4 points after they were held to a goalless draw by the Czech Republic on the 7th of June 2013. Mario Balotelli was sent off.

Italy play their first game in the confederations cup on the 16th of June against Mexico at the Estadio De Maracana in Rio De Janiero. Footynyx.

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