Last World Cup: Group stage
Nickname: Gli Azzurri (The Blues)
Coach: Cesare Prandelli
Star man: Mario Balotelli
Tournament best: Winners 1934, 1938, 1982, 2006
Prandelli's team performed well in reaching the Euro 2012 final and would love nothing more than to equal Brazil's record of five World Cup successes on Brazilian soil.
Strengths: The Italians' greatest goal threat in qualifying came from the air: the 42% of goals they scored from headers only exceeded by Ecuador. The defence-first stereotype of Italian football was challenged in the qualifiers where they scored two or more goals more regularly than all but three of their fellow finalists. With 50% of points recovered after going behind – a ratio that only seven qualifying sides could better–they can certainly produce goals when the pressure is on.
Weaknesses: Their attacking threat came at a cost defensively however, particularly down their right flank where 44% of their conceded goals originated: a higher share than any other qualifying team. Also, their reliance on headers seems to have come at the cost of long range finishing, with hardly only one of their goals coming from outside the area.
Prospects: A tough group makes it difficult to predict how they'll fare. Their ability to come from behind will trouble Uruguay and England who struggled to hold on to leads during qualifying. Headers haven't troubled Uruguay or Costa Rica thus far, so their response to Italy's high deliveries will be interesting. Both England and Costa Rica found success down the left flank in qualifying, giving them the ability to test Italy's weaker right side.