The Italians are perennial World Cup favourites      GettyImages

Manager: Cesare Prandelli

World Ranking: Ninth

How they qualified: Eased to qualification without losing a game having fended off the threats of Denmark, Czech Republic and Bulgaria.

Fixtures: England (14 June), Costa Rica (20 June), Uruguay (24 June)

Best World Cup Finish: Winners (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006)


Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon, Mattia Perin, Salvatore Sirigu

Defenders: Ignazio Abate, Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini , Matteo Darmian, Mattia De Sciglio, Gabriel Paletta,

Midfielders: Alberto Aquilani, Antonio Candreva, Daniele De Rossi, Claudio Marchisio, Thiago Motta, Marco Parolo, Andrea Pirlo, Marco Verratti

Forwards: Mario Balotelli, Antonio Cassano, Alessio Cerci, Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne

Expectations: After the capitulation that saw them finish rock-bottom of their group in 2010, the four-times winners have steadily repaired their once impenetrable reputation, marked by their runners-up spot in Euro 2012 and a flawless qualifying campaign.

A glance at the squads of Spain, Germany, Brazil and possibly Argentina suggests the Azzurri are lacking the quality to be considered favourites this summer. But their unyielding mental and fitness preparation coupled with the tactical discipline that has been a hallmark of their past successes suggests they will be underestimated at one's peril.

Giorgio Chiellini

In Andrea Pirlo and Marco Verratti, Prandelli's side have the ability to dictate play against some of the best while an attack that is blessed with class but volatility in equal measure can ensure Giuseppe Rossi's snub is not looked back upon with regret.

Star man: Giorgio Chiellini – The battle-hardened defender has been an immovable presence in defence since making his debut 10 years ago. While the side can now boast youthful exuberance in Verratti, Balotelli, Lorenzo Insigne and Mattia de Sciglio, Chiellini – along with Daniele de Rossi - epitomise the resolute drive that has accompanied Italy in their finest moments.

Prediction: Quarter-finals – England's propensity for disaster should ensure Italy escape their group, but the sheer abundance of talent waiting ahead of them in the latter stages suggests the pursuit of an elusive fifth Mundial will have to wait.