Having lifted the World Cup in 2006, the Azzurri crashed out at the group stages in South Africa last time out. Al Hain-Cole examines their chances in Brazil this summer
Alongside the Netherlands, Cesare Prandelli’s men were the first European side to qualify for the World Cup after remaining unbeaten in a group featuring Denmark and the Czech Republic. However, they are rated at just 12/1 (13.00) to go further than all of their continental rivals at this summer’s main event.
Just eight of Prandelli’s 30-man preliminary squad took part in their country’s meek group stage exit at the last World Cup, while only Gianluigi Buffon, Daniele De Rossi and Andrea Pirlo remain from the victorious 2006 side.
Having played an influential role in his team’s impressive Euro 2012 campaign, Pirlo remains the chief playmaker in a team blessed with a number of talented midfielders, while Mario Balotelli is also included despite a difficult season with AC Milan.
The former Manchester City man is bound to occupy plenty of column inches in the English press prior to his side’s opening Group D clash against the Three Lions, which should set the tone for the following meetings with Costa Rica and Uruguay.
The Azzurri are joint 13/8 (2.63) favourites to finish top of the pile in the ‘Group of Death,’ and available at 2/5 (1.40) to merely qualify for the knockout stages. In a tight group, they are priced at 7/4 (2.75) to repeat their 2010 nightmare by falling at the first hurdle once again.
With any one of Colombia, Greece, the Ivory Coast or Japan awaiting the top two from Group D in the last 16, 5/4 (2.20) odds appear tempting on Italy making it to the quarter finals, where they would probably take on Brazil, Spain or the Netherlands. Understandably, progression to the semis is therefore more of a long shot at 4/1 (5.00), while they are rated at 10/1 (11.00) to reach a seventh final in their history.
For that to happen Balotelli would probably have to rediscover the type of form that saw him inspire his team to the final at Euro 2012, where he finished as joint top scorer with three goals.
Having scored more than any of his team-mates in qualification despite featuring in just five of the 10 games, the livewire striker is 7/4 (2.75) favourite to lead his country’s scoring charts once again at another major tournament.
However, one-cap Torino forward Ciro Immobile fired himself into the squad after finishing as Serie A’s Capocannoniere with 22 league goals, and is a possible outside bet at 13/2 (7.50) to carry that form into the international arena.
Elsewhere, Giuseppe Rossi provides an interesting option at 8/1 (9.00) after grabbing 16 league goals in just 21 games during an injury-hit season with Fiorentina, having found the net during November’s friendly against Nigeria in his first international start in over two years.
This wealth of attacking options should prove useful in Prandelli’s preferred 4-3-3 formation, which is usually far more adventurous than the traditional national stereotype. The Italians were made to pay for a lack of cutting edge during their last World Cup campaign, scoring just once against Paraguay and New Zealand respectively.
However, with goalscorers in ample supply to feed off a wonderfully creative midfield this time round, they seem set to be rubbing shoulders with the favourites come the quarter finals, where their journey is priced at 3/1 (4.00) to come to an end.
|Italy's World Cup Squad - 25/1 with bet365|
|Gianluigi Buffon||Giorgio Chiellini||Andrea Pirlo||Antonio Cassano|
|Salvatore Sirigu||Andrea Barzagli||Daniele De Rossi||Mario Balotelli|
|Mattia Perin||Leonardo Bonucci||Riccardo Montolivo||Giuseppe Rossi|
|Antonio Mirante||Christian Maggio||Claudio Marchisio||Alessio Cerci|
|Ignazio Abate||Alberto Aquilani||Mattia Destro|
|Andrea Ranocchia||Thiago Motta||Lorenzo Insigne|
|Mattia De Sciglio||Antonio Candreva||Ciro Immobile|
|Manuel Pasqual||Marco Verratti|
|Gabriel Paletta||Marco Parolo|
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Al Hain-Cole is an experienced tipster and avid follower of European football. He specialises in accumulators and if you would like to read more from Al you can follow him on Twitter here.