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Number of World Cup appearances: 16
Best World Cup finish: Winners (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006)
Italy is the reigning World Cup champion, and if nothing else that validates them as a potential contender this summer. However, the devil’s advocate will say this is hardly the same team that raised the trophy in Germany four years ago.
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In 2006 defender Fabio Cannavaro, one of the finest players in the world, led the Italians. He is still a first team player but long in the tooth and not the brilliant footballer he once was. The same goes for veterans Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso. Now let’s not get too down on these players, as Italy’s experience will outweigh most teams’ talent, not to mention even 75 percent of the skill the Italians had in 2006 will still be good enough on most days.
No champion goes down easy, and I wouldn’t expect anything less from head coach Marcello Lippi, the leader who coached his country to the title four years ago. He retired on top but signed back onafter his seeing his country’s disappointing Euro 2008 exit. Unable to replace him with a coach that could prove his worth, Lippi was an easy choice to bring back as the head man.
Italy must rely its younger talent to boost the savvy play of their old hands. Those like U.S.-born Giueseppe Rossi and Brazilian-born Amauri, who both chose Italy as their country to play for over their birth nation, will be keys to produce for the current holders.
2010 Italy World Cup Odds
Italy is currently listed at 11/1 futures odds to win the World Cup.
They are 1/2 favorites to win Group F.
Key Player To Watch
Gianluigi Buffon is still one of the world’s finest goalkeepers, and it is really hard to believe the Juventus man is just 32 years old. He has all the experience one could ask for from their keeper, boasting the World Cup title and European experience on his resume and he does well to consistently get the job done in the defensive-laden Serie A (Italy’s top domestic league). During his nation’s run to the 2006 World Cup championship, Buffon racked up a 453-minute scoreless streak.
Best Team Asset
Italy has experience and loads of it. This team has played in every type of scenario you could ask for, and at the top level internationally. The Italians play the one of the best domestic leagues in Europe (Serie A), and as a collective unit they are very technically sound. Definitely not the best individual talent, but Italy always meshes well and comes to play.
Key Team Weakness
As mentioned above, a major concern is the durability and reliability of the players that carried the load in 2006. This team is still extremely talented, but Italy cannot count on just its proven players. A youthful exuberance will need to be seen, and the good part about that is Italy has the depth for it to be a possibility.
Italy World Cup Predictions
The Italians are going to cruise from Group F. Italy is not one of the best five teams in the tournament but they have the easiest draw comparable to their talent. Neither Paraguay, New Zealand nor Slovakia have enough to crack the Italian defense enough to be considered a threat. I don’t think Italy will advance further than the Round of 16 or last eight at best, but as far as the group stage, that’s a lock.
Key First Round Match (best betting opportunity)
I’d jump on the Italians from their initial game. As defending champions Italy will want to quickly establish that they are not to be taken lightly and a convincing effort v. Paraguay on June 14 is a good place to start with the current holders. Things should be even easier after that, but a World Cup victory to open their campaign is a strong betting opportunity.
Italy World Cup Group Play Schedule
v. Paraguay, June 14, 2010 – 2:30 p.m. ET at Green Point (Cape Town)
v. New Zealand, June 20, 2010 – 10 a.m. ET at Mbombela (Nelspruit)
v. Slovakia, June 24, 2010 – 10 a.m. at Ellis Park (Johannesburg)
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