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World Cup 2014: Italy national soccer team guide

ITALY LOOKING TO REBOUND

After winning the World Cup in 2006, the Italians fell flat in 2010, not even making it out of the group phase in South Africa. Now under new coach Cesare Prandelli, Italy will look to show why they've always been a force to be reckoned with on the biggest stage.

GROUP D SCHEDULE

June 14: vs. England, Manaus
June 20: vs. Costa Rica, Recife
June 24: vs. Uruguay, Natal

WHO GOT THEM THERE

Gianluigi Buffon (GK, Juventus): The 35-year-old goalkeeper’s better days are behind him, but he was the No. 1 choice for the Azzurri as they topped their qualifying group. He is one of two lone players left from the 2006 championship side.

 

WATCH: Noel Gallagher quizzes Super Mario

Mario Balotelli (F, AC Milan): The hot-tempered striker has established himself as the Italians' reference point in attack. Teams will continue to try and get under his skin, but as long as he stays on the field, he's capable of the magical play to decide a game.

Pablo Osvaldo (M, Southampton): The Argentine-born attacker has emerged during qualifying play, scoring four goals in seven matches. Can be the Italians' X factor in Brazil.

THE COACH

Cesare Prandelli, hired on May 30, 2010, only took over the team coached by Marcello Lippi after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, when the Italians failed to qualify to the knockout round.

Prandelli, a midfielder in his playing days for Cremonese, Atalanta and Juventus, has brought a more daring, attack-minded style to the Italian side, reminiscent of his Fiorentina teams between 2005 and 2010.

HOW THEY QUALIFIED
WCQ record: 6-0-4 22 pts. / 19 GF, 9 GA (First place in Europe's Group B)

Italy made it through to the World Cup with relative ease, outlasting the field in their group by six points. They jumped out ahead of the field by winning four of their first five contests and then closed out their undefeated qualifying campaign with a 2-0-3 record in their last five.

WORLD CUP HISTORY
18th appearance

The Azzurri have made it to the World Cup final six times, hoisting the Cup on four occasions – in 1934, ’38, ’82 and 2006. They were runners up in 1970 and 1994. They have also made it to the semifinals in two other tournaments – 1978 and 1990 – but failed to advance.

After the championship in 2006, Italy had a terrible showing in 2010 in South Africa, getting bounced in the group phase, finishing 26th overall among the 32 participants.

MLS/USA CONNECTIONS

Four of the six Italian-born players in MLS suit up for the Montreal Impact, including MLS 2013 Bext XI forward Marco Di Vaio ...Former Italian national team great Alessandro Nesta started 23 games for the Impact in 2013 before calling time on his legendary career ... Italian youth national team 'keeper Carlo Cudicini was a started for the LA Galaxy in the first half of the 2013 season ... Former Italian national 'keeper Walter Zenga finished off his professional career with three seasons in New England and went on to coach the Revs ... Giuseppe Rossi, a New Jersey native, will be one of Italy's stars in Brazil after recovering from two years of knee troubles (watch video below).

Italy have the advantage in head-to-head meetings with the US. However, the Stars and Stripes have won the most recent match – a 1-0 blanking of the Azzurri in Italy back in February 2012. The other recent result came in the 2006 World Cup, with the two sides ending in a 1-1 draw. In 1984, they also played to a scoreless draw. But Italy were the victor in the other five meetings, in 1934, 1975, 1990, 2002 and 2009, by a combined score of  22-2.