Italy

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Serie A has fallen on hard times and the Italian squad offers plenty of proof. Along with the Netherlands, the Italians — considered a perennial favourite — have one of the least star-studded squads in recent years. Other than the two relics from the 2006 triumph in Germany — Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo — the Azzurri have plenty of unknown quantity. Under coach Cesare Prandelli, the days of catenaccio are long gone. After all, this is the same coach who forged an attack-minded team that marched to the final of Euro 2012 (where they lost 4-0 to an imperious Spain). With Buffon in goal and a backline featuring Giorgio Chiellini and his Juventus clubmates, the defence remains as strong as ever. Pirlo is undoubtedly the talisman of the team and will continue to pull the strings like godfather in midfield. In Daniele de Rossi and Marco Verratti, Pirlo has some excellent passers for company. Up front, the mercurial Mario Balotelli will lead the attack. Of course, he is prone to having the occasional brain freeze, but his instinct for goal is superb. If he combusts, Torino striker Ciro Immobile — who is quite mobile on the pitch — will be the Plan B.

 

Italy

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