World ranking: 12

Best European Championship finish: Winners, 1968

How they qualified: Topped Group H four points ahead of runners-up Croatia, clinching passage to the tournament with a 3-1 win over Azerbaijan during the penultimate round of qualifying matches.

Fixtures: Belgium (13 June), Sweden (17 June), Republic of Ireland (22 June)

Squad -

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon, Federico Marchetti, Salvatore Sirigu

Defenders: Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Angelo Ogbonna

Midfielders: Federico Bernardeschi, Antonio Candreva, Matteo Darmian, Daniele de Rossi, Mattia de Sciglio, Stephan El Shaarawy, Alessandro Florenzi, Emanuele Giaccherini, Thiago Motta, Marco Parolo, Stefano Sturaro

Forwards: Eder, Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne, Graziano Pelle, Simone Zaza

Expectations: The Azzuri may have a lengthy and illustrious history with major global tournaments, but they enter the 2016 edition of the European Champions with arguably their greatest dearth in international talent since the 1949 Superga air disaster claimed the lives of seven members of their usual first team.

The feeling that this summer represents something of an afterthought in the Italian ranks are supported by manager Antonio Conte having already agreed a move to Chelsea at climax of the tournament – though he will be unwilling to arrive in West London on the back of continental humiliation. As their qualifying record suggests, with 16 goals scored in 10 games and seven conceded Italy, like many sides, rely on defensive steel rather than attacking flair.

Gianluigi Buffon
Italy's hopes lie in the safe hands of Gianluigi Buffon.Getty

That strategy might however prove foolhardy, despite having the same back three and goalkeeper – captain Gianluigi Buffon – that went 974 minutes without conceding a goal in Serie A for Juventus this season, breaking a 22-year-old record in the process. The loss of the tenacious Marco Verratti also hurts that strategy. The squad is threadbare in attacking talent, with only four nations having less international goals between them than Italy's 23-man roster.

Manager: Antonio Conte – Despite his final act as Italy boss coming this summer, the pressure is on Conte to deliver a run to the sharp end of the competition. Three successive Serie A titles with Juve prove his ability to unite a squad and should he bring cohesiveness to this group they could yet go far. Chelsea will surely be watching his every move, but is Conte's head already at Stamford Bridge?

Prediction: Group Stage – Multiple nations will adopt the strategy of soaking up pressure and hitting teams on the break; but it requires something tangible and threatening in the final third for that approach to succeed. Italy have been drawn in the toughest group of them all alongside Belgium, Republic of Ireland and Sweden, meaning there is no room for early slip-ups. A third group stage exit in four major tournaments beckons.