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Italy

Population: 57,600,000
Area: 301,230 km²
Capital: Rome
Language: Italian

 
THE ROAD TO KOREA/JAPAN
Italy controlled UEFA group 8 from the start and never looked troubled. Closest rivals Romania finished four points behind at the end.
Click here for details

 
WORLD CUP HISTORY
Participations: (14) 1934, 1938, 1950, 1954, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994 and 1998
Best placing: Winners 1934, 1938 and 1982
Topscorers: Paolo Rossi and Roberto Baggio, 9 goals
More detailed history information

 
FIRST ROUND MATCHES
Jun 03 - ITA v ECU  in Sapporo
Jun 08 - ITA v CRO  in Ibaraki
Jun 13 - ITA v MEX  in Oita

 
ONE TO WATCH
Christian Vieri, the Italian bull, will terrorize defenders with his physique. His appetite for goals will help Italy far in this tournament and Vieri is as close to a complete striker as you can come. The hottest contender for the Golden Boot if he avoids injuries and suspensions.

 
WCA VERDICT: Champions
Italy is our candidate for winning the World Cup and needless to say also a top two position in this group.

>> Why we fancy Italy to win



DEFENSIVE POWERHOUSE NOW WITH ATTACKING FLAIR


by Ruud Doevendans


    A World Cup without Italy is no World Cup. Italy has won it three times, and is always one of the favourites, even when they are not. Itís because it always takes some special to beat them. Beaten on penalty-kicks in 1990, 1994 and 1998, and a minute away from winning Euro 2000, when they started badly Ė as they often do Ė but grew into the tournament. Many see Italy as favourites this time as well.

    Coach Trapattoni is not the one to make the difference. Heís the old-fashioned Italian coach, relying on defence, not enabling a sparkling display by his team. And thatís a shame, because the best qualities of this Italian squad are in attack! They have the choice of many first class players there, and should try to win it by going forward. Still, you can expect them as usual first, to cut the opponent off, then to score on the break. I would like to see it a bit different.

    For the goalkeeperís post, many people hail young Juve-goalie Gianluigi Buffon, but my vote would go to Francesco Toldo. Buffon has not impressed me. When he broke through all barriers as a teenage goalie at Parma, I first thought he was a huge talent, but now I know better. Buffon can make a nice save, but he makes too many mistakes. Toldo is the more steady of the two, did well at Euro 2000 and should get the nod.

    Italyís defence has always been their paradehorse, but there are problems. Paolo Maldini, the worldís best left back of the 90ís, is injured and at his age it remains to be seen how quick he can recover and regain his best form, which is necessary to compete in a contender for the title. Fabio Cannavaro, also with World Cup experience under his belt, has been struggling all year with Parma. Alessandro Nesta, thought to be the worldís best defender, has been plagued by injuries and has recently been totally outplayed by in-form Montella from Roma, and that hasnít happened many times to Nesta. There are no other choices than these three who are near the same level, they are the best by far, given that they are fit. Hopefully this awesome trio can recover in time.

    The Italian attack is magnificent. Christian Vieri is back to his best and has been the hitman for Inter since coming back from injury. He is a certain starter. The second place in attack is open, but Trapattoni will probably choose a deep lying attacker there, such as Del Piero or Totti. He should go for two in attack, with Del Piero or rather Totti behind the two. In that case, Vincenzo Montella should be his choice for the second spot in attack. Like so many other stars, he has been injured badly, but before and after that period he was great. His four goals against Lazio didnít come out of the blue. Montella was the main reason why Roma won the title in 2001. Give him your confidence, Trap, and he will pay you back. He can be the next Baggio. Even more, when you let Totti play behind him. They know each other well, they play well with each other. I would take Totti rather than Del Piero, although the latter is a luxury having on the bench. He can change a game, once he steps in. Filippo Inzaghi is the possible first replacement for Vieri, although they have also been playing together. And then to realize that another big name, Enrico Chiesa, is out for the tournament. A shame.

    The big questionmark in the Italian team must be raised at their midfield. Italyís midfield is not the best part. Itís not bad, but itís just not good enough compared to what others have. No Zidane or Pires, no Mendieta or Valeron, no Veron or Riquelme, no Scholes, Gerrard or Beckham, no Rui Costa, even no Ballack. Itís too much of the same: Zambrotta, Di Biagio, Zanetti, Albertini, Pessotto, name them. They are all hard working, they will hardly ever disappoint you, but they will hardly ever surprise the opponent as well. What you see is what you get. And thatís why they should always choose two attackers with Totti/Del Piero behind them, to make sure that there is at least a little bit creativity coming from midfield. The others wonít provide it.

    Croatia, Ecuador, Mexico. Italy will always go through in this group, we are sure of that. But after that, we're afraid it will be the same old song that we know from their last tournaments. Try to survive, and hope for scoring that one goal you need to advance. Itís not impossible that it will work, but after the matches we will surely keep saying, that this team should have played better soccer. But in Italy Ė and maybe thatís a good thing Ė winning is first, the way in which you do it comes next. Thatís why they are so strong and hard to beat.



A BRIEF WORLD CUP HISTORY

by Jan Alsos


    Italyís World Cup history can be divided into three major chapters; the pre-war tournaments when Italy dominated world football, the post-war slump from 1950 to 1966, and the modern day Italy known world wide as a footballing powerhouse. Italy chose not participate in the inaugural tournament in Uruguay, but hosted and won the next in 1934. Czechoslovakia were beaten in the final after extra-time. Italy defended their title in France four years later - a feat only emulated once to this day (Brazil 58 and 62). Hungary comfortably beaten 4-2 in the final. Silvio Piola and Giuseppe Meazza were the greatest stars back then.

    It took twelve years before a World Cup was held again because of World War II. Italyís glory was gone. The team in Brazil 1950 was not of the same calibre and none of the 1938 champions were still present. Italy crashed out already in the first round. The next decade brought little glory to Italian fans. Another first round exit in Switzerland Ď54 was followed by a failed qualification campaign for Sweden Ď58 before the Azzurri finally stole the limelight again. In a negative way that is. Hosts Chile beat Italy 2-0 in a first round game in 1962, but the game is more remembered for the violent scenes where players were fist fighting. The problems for Italy continued in England 1966 when little North Korea beat them in the decisive first round game. The team was bombarded by rotten tomatoes when they arrived in Italy again.

    Brighter days came. After a slow start with only one win and two goalless draws in 1970, Italy impressed again with a formidable 4-1 win over hosts Mexico in the quarterfinal. An even more impressive 4-3 extra-time thriller victory over West Germany sent Italy to the World Cup final again. Pelť and Brazil proved to be too powerful, but Italy had returned as a major nation on the football map.

    Italy experienced another letdown four years later in West Germany with a first round elimination, but this time they had a tough group with Poland and Argentina - the latter edged them out on goaldifference. There would be no talk about goaldifference in 1978 because Italy won all their three first round games - including Argentina in Buenos Aires, the eventual champions. Italy looked good enough to go all the way until Hollandís Arie Haan scored from 40 yards in a decisive second phase match and relegated them to the bronzematch, which they lost to Brazil.

    1982 was the year Italy did it all. They stumbled through the preliminary round with three draws against Cameroon, Peru and Poland before pacing up in the second phase beating Argentina and Brazil - the latter an all-time World Cup classic game where Paolo Rossi scored a hat-trick to give Italy a 3-2 win when Brazil only needed a draw to go through. Poland was easily beaten in the semifinal and West Germany could do nothing in the final. Rossi was topscorer and Dino Zoff could lift the cup as a 40 year-old captain.

    The magic was no longer there in Mexico four years later. A dull and lacklustre Italian team lost deservedly to France in the second round. Italy hosted the World Cup in 1990 and looked solid all the way and didnít concede a goal until deep into the semifinal when a Caniggia header gave Argentina 1-1 which was enough for the South Americans who were better from the penalty spot. Schillaci scored his sixth goal against England in the bronzematch which gave him the Golden Boot and Italy third place.

    Roberto Baggio was Italyís hero in 1994. The team - just like in 1982 - muddled through the first round and Baggio scored decisive goals against Nigeria, Spain and Bulgaria, but failed from the penalty spot when he was most needed in the final against Brazil. Italy were eliminated for the third consecutive time on a penalty shoot-out in 1998 when France beat them in the quarterfinal. Christian Vieri had until then carried Italy just like Schillaci and Baggio had done in the two previous campaigns as a sole attacking weapon.

 

 

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