|Team Colours:||Blue Shirt / White Shorts|
|Best Finish:||Winner; 1968|
Road to 2012
Italy set an example in how to defend throughout Group C by only conceding 2 goals, the Italians topped the group by a convincing 10 points leaving Estonia, Serbia and Slovenia to fight for the play-off place. Italy’s defensive example was Juventus captain Giorgio Chiellini, he played all 10 fixtures, putting on the captain’s armband several times. They had one high-scoring win against the Faroe Islands, 5-0 and their next match saw them draw to a spirited Northern Ireland in Belfast. Italy had a home qualifying match abandoned against Serbia in October 2010, after six minutes the match played at The Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa because of crowd trouble. Crowd disturbances had delayed the match and was abandoned after Serbian fans causing disturbances & throwing flares. AC Milan’s Antonio Cassano was Italy’s top-scorer with 6 goals during qualification and also played all of Italy’s group matches.
Manager – Cesare Prandelli
Cesare Prandelli replaced Marcello Lippi after Italy’s World Cup 2010 campaign, where they finished bottom of a weak group and failed to win. Before taking the Italy job, Prandelli managed Serie A side Fiorentina where he managed to transform the then mid-table squad into a UEFA Champions League side. Prandelli was awarded the Serie A Coach of the Year for his 2007-08 season performance with the Viola and two-weeks later was announced as the Italian Head Coach. Prandelli’s reign is looking impressive so far, during his Euro 2012 campaign Italy were unbeaten, dropping points in just two draws and only conceding twice in 900 minutes of football. Italy have been drawn with the current holders Spain, Republic of Ireland and dark-horses Croatia, a group Italy are expected to progress through.
Captain – Gianluigi Buffon
Gianluigi Buffon has been part of the Juventus furniture since his transfer from Parma in 2001. Over a decade between the sticks in Serie A has made Buffon into one of the best goalkeepers in the world. He leads from the back with his influence and organisational skills, along with his cat-like reflexes. Buffon has lifted the World Cup with Italy in 2006 but not as captain, after Fabio Cannavaro retired Buffon was appointed captain in 2011. Buffon made 6 appearances in qualification, Italy managed to only concede 2 goals from 10 games. After missing the 2010 World Cup due to injury Buffon will be looking to captain the ‘Azzuri’ to European glory.
One to watch – Mario Balotelli
Mario Balotelli has produced some world-class displays for Manchester City this season, from 16 appearances he’s scored 10 times. Balotelli only played twice in Italy’s qualifying campaign and it seems that his temperament and poor disciplinary record has been holding him back. There’s no doubt that Balotelli is a magnificent talent, whether Italy boss Cesare Prandelli can control the City player is crucial.