Italy Team - 2014 World Cup Betting

Best Finish: Won in 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006

Manager: Cesare Prandelli

Captain: Gianluigi Buffon

Key Player: Andrea Pirlo (Juventus)

Group D: With Costa Rica, England and Uruguay


Having won four World Cup titles, Italy is only bested by Brazil in terms of historical soccer supremacy. Most recently, they won the title in 2006 after topping a scrappy French team. But Italy followed up this dramatic victory with a complete dud four years ago, when they finished at the bottom of a pretty soft group that included Paraguay, Slovakia and New Zealand.

That said, the Italians are hoping for a much better performance in the 2014 World Cup. They looked pretty strong in UEFA Group B qualifiers, finishing 6-4-0 (W-D-L) while facing the likes of Denmark, Czech Republic and Bulgaria. Italy boasted a +10 goal differential and had 6 more points than any other team, showing that they were clearly the cream of UEFA Group B.

Two of the biggest attributes of the "Azzurri" are their experience and familiarity with each other. While a youth movement has started in Italy, their core still revolves around veterans like Gianliugi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi and Giorgio Chiellini. Additionally, most of the players from the national team play club ball with AC Milan and Juventus, meaning they'll be familiar with each other's styles.

One of the Juventus players, Pirlo, will be critical to Italy's chances of winning. The 35-year-old has mastered the central midfield position during his lengthy career, now showing strong defensive abilities, pinpoint passing and incredible composure. Pirlo will be heavily relied upon to set up attacks from the center of the pitch.

As for the youth movement that was mentioned earlier, striker Mario Balotelli will be leading the way. Standing nearly 6'3, the powerful and quick Balotelli has no shortage of athletic talent. The 23-year-old looked magnificent in leading UEFA Group B play with five goals. However, he's also been described as difficult to manage in the past, so hopefully none of this negativity surfaces during Cup play. Other young players who'll be important cogs in Italy's 2014 campaign include Lorenzo Insigne, Stephan El Shaarawy and Mattia De Sciglio.

Many expect the Azzurri to do much better this time around than they performed four years ago. Italy features a very nice blend of wise veterans and talented young players. And the key to how far this team goes in the 2014 World Cup depends upon how quickly the young footballers adapt to the intense competition.

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