Italy

The Azzurri are the second most successful team at the World Cup with four titles (in 1934, 1938, 1982, 2006), but they have only won the Euros once (in 1968). They infamously crashed out of the World Cup in 2010 in the first round, but have appointed a new coach and now look to a new generation to erase those haunting memories.

Coach:

Cesare Prandelli

Strength: Italy’s strength is usually in an organized defensive strategy, combined with a keen sense for when to counter-attack. But the strength of this year’s team strangely lies in its talented array of attacking central midfielders not to mention world-class forwards.

Weaknesses: The drop-off in quality when you start looking outside is immediately noticeable. The outside backs and wingers are not the household names that soccer fans have come accustomed to seeing with the Blues. Some creative tactics may be the only way to put 11 top players on the field.

Standout players:

Giuseppe Rossi – was tragically omitted from Italy’s most recent World Cup by incompetent management. One of the most technically proficient forwards in world football, with fantastic vision, awareness, and dangerous with both feet around the goal. Was a big transfer target for Barcelona the last two summers, but a move never materialized so he continues to play for Villareal in Spain. Look for him to control Italy’s attack if they are to have a chance to advance.

Mario Balotelli – famous for his antics off the field, but may be the most talented player at the Euros. Has outstanding pace and touch, can turn and shoot with either foot, but his loose-cannon mentality make him an inconsistent performer. Has been in top form for EPL leaders Manchester City.

Odds to win:

15/1

Games

Date                                Opponent                                         Stadium                                             Location

June 10                           Spain                                             Arena Gdansk                                 Gdansk, Poland

June 14                           Croatia                                          Stadium Poznan                             Poznan, Poland

June 18                           Republic of Ireland                   Municipal Stadium Poznan         Poznan, Poland

Click here for full roster

Click here for results from qualifying matches