How they qualified
Often below par during qualifying before raising their game at final tournaments, Italy went about things differently for once by taking imperious control of Group B in the European Zone. Their task appeared potentially tricky when they were drawn alongside Denmark, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, but La Nazionale surged through unbeaten and booked their ticket to Brazil with time to spare, meaning they will head to the finals confident that their internal revolution has been a success. After all, Cesare Prandelli seems to have consigned catenaccio to the past. "It's now obvious that you can't get results without playing attractive football," explained the coach when he first took over. Since then he has led the side to the UEFA EURO 2012 showpiece and a 14th consecutive FIFA World Cup™ finals berth – all while remaining faithful to an attacking style of play.
FIFA World Cup finals history
With four world titles to their name (1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006) and two runners-up slots (1970 and 1994), Italy lie second only to Brazil on the all-time FIFA World Cup honours board. La Squadra Azzurra are also the only team along with the Brazilians to have won the competition twice in a row. Their 4-3 semi-final defeat of West Germany at Mexico 1970 is widely regarded as one of the most spectacular matches in the history of the tournament.
The key players
Captain and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is the only survivor from their 2006 triumph in Germany along with Andrea Pirlo, while a host of youngsters have broken into the team, such as central defender Andrea Ranocchia and midfielder Marco Verratti. Up front, the transition from old to new has been even more dramatic thanks to the emergence of Stephan El Shaarawy and Giuseppe Rossi's return to the fore. Also with a vital role to play are the maverick duo of Mario Balotelli and Pablo Osvaldo.
Coach: Cesare Prandelli
Best performances in a FIFA competition: FIFA World Cup Italy 1934, France 1938, Spain 1982 and Germany 2006 (Winners), Men's Olympic Football Tournament Berlin 1936 (Winners)
Former stars: Dino Zoff, Paolo Maldini, Silvio Piola