Italy come into the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals as winners of their qualifying group, having finished with six wins and four draws. Gil Azzurri will be looking to build on their performance from UEFA EURO 2012, where only an irresistible final display by Spain put an end to what was highly impressive campaign.

The emphasis of coach Cesare Prandelli has been placed on showing unity as a group. “Let’s forget this idea that we are the strongest, handsomest, and the best,” he said. “We aren’t the best but we can beat the best as long as we behave in a certain way, with a group mentality.” Precisely such a mindset has served the Italians well throughout history, to the tune of four FIFA World Cup victories – in 1934, 1938, 1982 and again in 2006.

Domestically there is confidence behind the side, who have fully shut the book on the embarrassment of the group-stage elimination at the FIFA World Cup. Prandelli has overseen the transition by retaining cornerstones of the squad such as Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi, all while introducing young talent to complement them, such as Mattia De Sciglio, Marco Verratti and Mario Balotelli.

At Brazil 2014 Italy have been drawn into Group D and will face England in what should be a humid opener in Manaus, before playing Costa Rica and Uruguay. Prandelli’s side have some experience with the climate, having competed at the FIFA Confederations Cup 2013 where they finished third after losing to Spain on penalty kicks. Defeat does not sit lightly with the Italians, however, and they will be looking to equal Brazil’s five FIFA World Cup trophies come summer

COACH>>

CESARE PRANDELLI

This will be Prandelli’s first FIFA World Cup as head of Gli Azzurri, having replaced Marcelo Lippi in 2010. The former ACF Fiorentina coach took Italy to the final of UEFA EURO 2012, reviving the national team from the traumatic FIFA World Cup exit of four years ago.

Tactics

Italy love to dominate the centre of the pitch, either through passing or the way in which they occupy space. They like to play the ball out from defence, usually through elegant playmaker Andrea Pirlo, but also via midfielders Daniele De Rossi and Ricardo Montolivo, with Leonardo Bonucci acting as an auxiliary distributor if need be.

Fixtures Group D

England
Manaus 15 June 2014

Costa Rica
Recife 21 June 2014

Uruguay
Natal 25 June 2014

*Dates are AEST

Tournament history
Previous tournaments: 17

2010 FIFA World Cup performance
Group stage

Best performance
Winners, 1934, 1938, 1982, 2006

How they qualified
Winners, European Group B