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World Cup 2014 Guide: Italy

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The Italians strolled through their group in qualification campaign, finishing the group unbeaten with 6 wins and 4 draws. However, the group stage at the tournament could prove to be more difficult for the team ranked 9th in the World by FIFA. Having been drawn alongside Costa Rica, England and Uruguay in Group D, Italy will hope to start their campaign off with a vital victory against England on June 14th. Costa Rica are expected to be the groups whipping boys, so results against England and Uruguay will be the games which decide who progresses from this group. The Italians caused a shock by reaching the European Championships final in 2012 and will use that impressive tournament as inspiration in Brazil. This could also be the final chance for 2006 World Cup winners like Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo to star at the highest international level before calling an end to their international careers.

Key Players

Gianluigi Buffon – Buffon is currently the captain of the Italian national side and will be certain to add to his Italian record 139 caps in Brazil, barring an unlikely injury to the Juventus goalkeeper. When Buffon moved to Juventus from Parma he set the World record transfer fee for a goalkeeper of £47 million. This is still the record fee for a goalkeeper to this day. The Azzurri legend will know he will have to be at his best to keep out the likes of Luis Suarez, Wayne Rooney and Edinson Cavani in Group D.

Giorgio Chiellini – The Juventus star can play at left back but is usually played centrally for both club and country. He has been a key figure in the Juventus side that has recently dominated Italian football under Antonio Conte, winning three successive scudettos and the basis for this success has been the solid defence provided by the likes of Chiellini and Buffon. The Juventus pair will be desperate to make up for a disappointing European campaign at club level as Juventus lost in the Europa League semi-final to eventual runners-up Benfica, missing out on the chance to play a final in the club’s home stadium.

Andrea Pirlo – Another member of the Juventus contingent that will be vital to Italy’s chances of success in Brazil. Pirlo has immense quality in possession of a football and was undoubtedly the key man in Italy reaching the final of Euro 2012. He plays the role of a ‘deep lying playmaker’ for club and country and has seen his career revitalised since moving from AC Milan to Juventus in 2011 and his move to Turin has coincided with the club winning three titles in a row. Pirlo will hope to replicate his man of the match performance against England in the European Championship quarter-final in Italy’s opening match against Roy Hodgson’s England. A winner of the tournament in 2006, can Andrea Pirlo star in another World Cup this time aged 35?

Ciro Immobile – The Torino striker will not be as well-known to those outside of Italy and this could prove vital as Italy may look to spring a surprise in Brazil by giving the 24-year-old striker the nod, ahead of AC Milan’s Mario Balotelli. Immobile has had an impressive season in Serie A netting 22 times in 33 games, helping Torino to a top half finish. He scored 8 more goals than Balotelli in the league this year and will seemingly be heading to Brazil as the top scorer in Italy this season. He has been linked with a big money move away from Torino to German side Borussia Dortmund. A good showing could encourage Jurgen Klopp to dig deep and sign Immobile to replace outgoing Robert Lewandowski.

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