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The 1982 World Cup star spoke exclusively to Goal about the upcoming finals, discussing the Azzurri, Giuseppe Rossi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and much more

By Marco Terrenato

Former Poland and Juventus star Zbigniew Boniek says Italy should aim to reach the semi-finals at the 2014 World Cup, and also had his say on Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of the Brazil finals.

Boniek played in three World Cups and is regarded as one of the greatest Polish players in history, scoring four goals to lead his country to third place at the 1982 tournament in Spain.

The former midfielder spent much of his club career in Serie A with Juve and Roma, and is confident that Italy will do well in South America.

"I am convinced that Italy can and should aim to reach the semi-finals," Boniek told Goal.

"The experience of playing at the Confederations Cup last year will be decisive in the Azzurri dealing with this World Cup.

"Of course it will be very tough with the time zone issues and especially with the different weather conditions between the south and north. Also historically, European teams always suffer when playing on the South American continent.

"But if Italy can solve all these problems, they will be a team that is always difficult to play against."

One of the biggest debates in Italy currently revolves around whether Giuseppe Rossi should be selected in Cesare Prandelli's final 23-man squad having only recently recovered from a serious, long-term knee injury.

"Prandelli is the only person who can make the decision, but if Rossi is fit then Prandelli will take him to Brazil," Boniek predicted. "Rossi has many qualities and knows how to score goals."

Asked who his favourites were to win the World Cup, Boniek could look no further than Brazil and Argentina. He doesn't believe that many people's darkhorses, Belgium, have the ability to go all the way.

"Obviously Brazil and Argentina are the favourites," he noted. "Then, of course, there is Spain although I think their cycle is coming to an end. Then behind these there is a third category featuring Germany, Italy, Engand and also Uruguay.

"Belgium have some talented players and must be respected but I don't think they are a team ready to play at stratospheric levels. They perhaps miss something from the tactical point of view."

And who will be the star player of the World Cup?

"Of course I immediately think of Messi, although this year he has disappointed me a lot," said the Pole.

"In the last six months he has often been injured. Cristiano Ronaldo has finished the season exhausted, but I think he will do well at the World Cup. These two players overshadow all the others."

Boniek's club career is best remembered for his three seasons at Juventus where he won a host of trophies alongside the likes of Michel Platini and Paolo Rossi, including a Scudetto, European Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup.

Speaking of his former club ahead of next season, Boniek said: "Coach Antonio Conte will probably focus more on the Champions League with less emphasis on Serie A.

"I think that Juventus can do well in the Champions League next season and make up for their negative experience last term."