Led by a flamboyant Paolo Rossi and by a hard and mean defence line composed by Scirea, Cabrini, Gentille, Bergomi, and Collovati, Italy left everyone stranded when they claimed the 1982 World Cup trophy. An Italian team, based on a fierce defensive line and on extremely lethal counter attack movements, defeated the all-powerful Brazilian squad on the group stage and later ran over the rock solid German side in the final.
Although there aren’t many similarities between the current Cesare Prandelli’s Italy with the one from Enzo Bearzot of 1982, there is probably one thing that is common to both of them: the power of their defence lines.
Italy’s UEFA qualifying stage was far too easy, with the team booking their place to Brazil with still two matches to spare. Denmark, Armenia, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic have all competed fiercely among themselves, although they didn’t offer Italy any real opposition. The Squadra Azzurra ended up the qualifying stage without conceding a single defeat and with an highly efficient defence line, although they did allow four goals in the last two matches, during which Cesare Prandelli decided to conduct some experimentation.
The current Italian team also differs from the one from 1982 in their game style. Prandelli privileges a more possession-based style, quite similar to the one Juventus have been presenting under the helm of Antonio Conte over the last seasons.
Italy were placed on the complicated Group D, alongside with England, Uruguay and Costa Rica. This is probably on the most tight groups of the tournament with three top teams competing for only two places at the next stage of the competition. England, for instance, made an almost flawless campaign at the UEFA qualifying stage, ending the group undefeated and with only four goals allowed. Uruguay, on the other hand, experienced several unexpected difficulties on the CONMEBOL qualifying stage, and despite Luis Suarez’s excellent finishing skills, they ended up on the fifth place of their respective group, the last one to grant a ticket to the World Cup. As for Costa Rica, despite having some interesting players, they certainly don’t have what is necessary to disturb neither Italy nor the other two major contenders.
To sum things up, Italy are favourites to walk through to next stage of the competition, to the semi-finals or even to the final itself. The Squadra Azzurra gathers a fantastic group of players that, if we have in mind that the other top teams are probably not as strong as they used to be, might create something special at this year’s tournament.
14 June 2014: England 1 Italy 1 Best Odds 13/8 @ Paddy Power
20 June 2014: Italy 2 Costa Rica 0 Best Odds 1/3 @ Ladbrokes
24 June 2014: Italy 2 Uruguay 1 Best Odds 5/4 @ William Hill
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon, Salvatore Sirigu, Mattia Perin.
Defenders:Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorigo Chiellini, Gabriel Paletta, Andrea Ranocchia, Ignazio Abate, Mattia De Sciglio, Christian Maggio, Matteo Darmian, Manuel Pasqual.
Midfielders: Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti, Riccardo Montolivo, Daniele De Rossi, Antonio Candreva, Marco Parolo, Alberto Aquilani, Romulo.
Forwards:Mario Balotelli, Antonio Cassano, Alessio Cerci, Ciro Immobile, Giuseppe Rossi , Mattia Destro, Lorenzo Insigne.