GROUP F: Can Italy go back-to-back?

One of the biggest questions being asked is if Italy can perform well enough to take out their second world title in a row?

One of the biggest questions being asked is if Italy can perform well enough to take out their second world title in a row?

The Azzurri, who at times bored us, were deserved winners of the 2006 World Cup in Germany which came at a time when Italian football was being heavily questioned.

The Italian team entered the tournament under plenty of pessimism following allegations that their national league, the Serie A, was awash with a match-fixing scandal which forced the players of the Azzurri to prove something to the rest of the world.

The banded together and came away with a momentous win against the odds but can they manage reaching those heights in 2010?

Their squad has aged considerably since 2006 as players such as Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluca Zambrotta, Gennaro Gattuso, Andrea Pirlo, Mauro Camoranesi and Antonio Di Natale are now all well over 30 and the general consensus is that they will be too slow and too old to win again.

But Italy constantly win against the odds and with a very easy group, they will cruise through to the Round of 16 with little fuss before coming up against a determined Spain in the quarter-finals.

Italy

Playing schedule: Paraguay (Cape Town) June 14; New Zealand (Nelspruit) June 20; Slovakia (Johannesburg) June 24

Also known as: Azzurri (Blue)
Manager: Marcello Lippi (ITA)
Captain: Fabio Cannavaro
Key players: Alberto Gilardino, Daniele De Rossi, Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro
Wildcard: Giampaolo Pazzini
Player to watch: Giorgio Chiellini
Most caps: Fabio Cannavaro (133)
Top goalscorer: Luigi Riva (35). Of this squad: Alberto Gilardino (16)
FIFA ranking: 5
Qualifying: Top in UEFA group stage.
Appearance: 17th
Best result: Winners – 1934, 1938, 1982 & 2006

Italy 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)

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