Brazil 2014: Italy Preview

Are you excited yet? Are you wearing your Italy shirt already? Started collecting stickers? Got your world cup wall chart? As much as it’s possible to get cynical about the tournament and FIFA, the money that’s spent on staging the competition and all the rest of it, now that we’re under a month away from the kickoff in Sao Paulo, most fans will be starting to feel the excitement beginning to bubble up. Here we’ll examine Italian hopes, take a look at the squad and recap the nation’s World Cup history.

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History and Odds for 2014
Odds on Italy lifting the trophy in July range between 20/1 and 28/1 at the time of writing; not bad, you might think, for a nation that’s been world champions four times, second only to Brazil’s five. But of course all those wins were in Europe, and the likelihood of a European team beating Brazil (or indeed Argentina) in Brazil this time around must be fairly low.
Group D
Italy have been drawn in Group D along with Uruguay, Costa Rica and England, and the first of their matches is against the latter team in Manaus, deep in the Amazon jungle. It’ll be a thrilling game for UK-based Italian fans, with Italy favourites right now to top the group at around 7/4, and England at no better than 12/5.
On 20th June Italy take on Costa Rica, who, despite a very good qualifying campaign, are seen by the bookies as having no chance of winning this one. If Italy get a point against England and two wins against Costa Rica and Uruguay, we can expect those 28/1 odds to shorten dramatically. Winning Group D means taking on the runner-up of Group C in the next round; Ivory Coast would seem to be the likeliest candidate for that position.
The Squad
Amongst those confirmed for the squad are Mario Balotelli, Giuseppe Rossi and Mattia Destro up front. Rossi’s long layoff due to a knee problem might be a concern, while Destro and defender Giorgio Chiellini have been forgiven for recent disciplinary issues (i.e. punching and elbowing opponents.) Matteo Darmian makes the back four, and PSG’s Salvatore Sirigu and Genoa’s Mattia Perin provide backup for Gianluigi Buffon in goal.
Dani Osvaldo didn’t make the cut, having expressed his hopes of going to Brazil after Juventus’ victory over Roma recently. Players to watch include Ciro Immobile, currently top scorer in Serie A but with just one international call-up so far, and Andrea Pirlo, for whom Brazil 2014 will be his last World Cup – he’ll be 35 by the time the tournament starts. Italian fans will miss his fantastic technique and set-piece ability.
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