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Italy

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Italy are the second most successful country in the history of the World Cup - and would equal the host nation’s record of five victories if they could triumph in Brazil.
 
Two of the four World Cup wins achieved by Italy came way back in the 1930s at consecutive tournaments on home soil and in France, but they had to wait until 1982 to lift the trophy again in Spain and then did so in Germany eight years ago.
 
All those four successes have therefore been in Europe, so it would mean breaking new ground if the Azzurri are to become world champions on a different continent.
 
The Italians can also fail to produce the goods on occasions and did just that at the last World Cup in South Africa, failing to win a match in their defence of the title and crashing out in the group stage. They also disappointed in 2002, losing in the last 16 to co-hosts South Korea.
 
Since then, Italy have reached the final of Euro 2012 and their qualification campaign for this tournament went smoothly, cruising to victory unbeaten in their group.
 
However, World Cup Group D, the pool in which they have been drawn for Brazil,  will present a much more difficult test.
 
Eagerly anticipated is the Saturday June 14 clash with England in Manaus, which is a re-run of the Euro 2012 quarter-final which Italy won in a penalty shootout.
 
On Friday June 20, Costa Rica provide the opposition in Recife before the final group placings will be decided on Tuesday June 24 when Italy take on Uruguay in Natal.
 
Cesare Prandelli is the coach of the Italy team having succeeded Marcello Lippi after the last World Cup and his squad is full of experience with 36-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon the team captain.
 
Key midfielders Andrea Pirlo, 35, and Daniele De Rossi, 30, are hardly in the first flush of youth either, but putting their faith in tried-and-trusted performers is certainly not a new policy for the Italians.
 
It’s up front where there is likely to be the most youthful exuberance and fireworks can certainly be expected from AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli one way or another.

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