Italy Team Fact Box

2010-05-11 13:13
Previous appearances in finals: 16

Nickname: Squadra Azzurra (The Blue Team)

Best performance:
Winners 1934, 1938, 1982, 2006
Runners-up: 1970, 1994

Coach: Marcello Lippi led Italy to World Cup glory in 2006 before resigning and then returning after Roberto Donadoni's sacking following a poor Euro 2008. The former Juventus coach was hailed in 2006 after using a match-fixing scandal engulfing the country to bring his players together and guide a modest side to victory. Has since lost some public backing after refusing to pick Sampdoria playmaker Antonio Cassano.

Captain: Fabio Cannavaro

Key players:

Andrea Pirlo
Age: 30
Position: Midfielder
Club: AC Milan 

The World Cup winner has recently played much further forward for Italy than Milan and is the side's main creative force given that Cassano has been overlooked. His form has dipped in the last few years but is still a pass master.

Fabio Cannavaro
Age: 36
Position: Defender
Club: Juventus

The most-capped Italian player of all time (131) will almost certainly quit international football after the World Cup but the tough-tackling, calm captain is determined to do well after missing Euro 2008 through injury.

Gianluigi Buffon
Age: 31
Position: Goalkeeper
Club: Juventus

Still regarded in Italy as the world's best goalkeeper, he rarely makes a mistake and can pull off remarkable saves despite suffering a string of niggles.

FIFA world ranking May 2010: 4

How they qualified: Finished top of their qualifying group without losing a game but three draws and some lacklustre performances from the ageing team led to media criticism. A handful of younger players could make the World Cup squad.

Prospects: The holders are a long way from being favourites because of a lack of creativity and an unsettled strike force. Fiorentina's Alberto Gilardino is likely to be their main striker in a 4-4-2 formation with the fitness of Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio key to the left-wing spot. Age factors with key players such as Cannavaro may also feature against younger, faster teams.

World Cup Squad

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Morgan De Sanctis (Napoli), Federico Marchetti (Cagliari).

Defenders: Salvatore Bocchetti (Genoa), Leonardo Bonucci (Bari), Fabio Cannavaro (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Domenico Criscito (Genoa), Christian Maggio (Napoli), Gianluca Zambrotta (AC Milan).

Midfielders: Mauro Camoranesi (Juventus), Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma), Gennaro Gattuso (AC Milan), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Riccardo Montolivo (Fiorentina), Angelo Palombo (Sampdoria), Simone Pepe (Udinese), Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan).

Forwards: Antonio Di Natale (Udinese), Alberto Gilardino (Fiorentina), Vincenzo Iaquinta (Juventus), Giampaolo Pazzini (Sampdoria), Fabio Quagliarella (Napoli).


Italy's squad, led by ageing giant Fabio Cannavaro, warm-up during a FIFA World Cup training session.(AFP)
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