WORLD CUP : Team profile – Italy (group e)

With three FIFA World Cups to their name, Italy are rightly held up as one of the great football nations. Their first triumph was way back in 1934 at the second ever global showcase, held on Italian soil. Four years later in France, they became the first team to successfully defend their crown and their third title was secured in 1982 in Spain.

Germany 2006 will mark Italy’s 16th appearance at a FIFA World Cup finals, making Sweden 1958 the only finals they did not grace with their presence. Following their successes in 1934 and 1938, Italy lifted the World Cup for the third time at Spain 1982 thanks largely to an outstanding performance by Paolo Rossi.

Italy’s strong national league, boasting world-famous sides such as AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan, has traditionally provided the platform for a competitive Italy team. Over the years, Serie A has produced true legends such as Roberto Baggio, Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Gianni Rivera and the unforgettable Dino Zoff who played in the victorious 1982 side at 40.

In the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan, after battling their way through to the Round of 16, the Azzurri succumbed to hosts Korea Republic.

Italy led for most of the match but conceded a late equaliser and the South Koreans secured victory with an extra-time golden goal.

Coach Marcello Lippi adopted the mantra “No-one is guaranteed a place” – something Alessandro Del Piero and Christian Vieri soon found to their cost. A new generation emerged, all eager to seize their opportunity. Between summer 2004 and autumn 2005, Lippi gave debuts to nine players — Cristian Zaccardo, Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini, Daniele De Rossi, Manuele Blasi, Mauro Esposito, Luca Toni, Alberto Gilardino and Vincenzo Iaquinta – and together they accounted for eight of the 15 goals scored by Italy on the road to Germany.

Apart from a setback in Slovenia where they lost 1-0 on 9 October 2004, Italy comfortably secured their berth for Germany with seven wins, two draws and that solitary defeat to finish top of a group including Norway, Slovenia and Scotland.

WC participations: 15 (1934, 38, 50, 54, 62, 66, 70, 74, 78, 82, 86, 90, 94, 98, 2002)WC honours: Three-time World champions (1934, 1938, 1982)Continental Titles: European champions (1968)Slogan: Blue pride, Italy in our hearts