Six years ago, Fabio Cannavaro lifted the World cup for Italy. Since then, a lot has changed in the team. Many top players retired, making way for young blood while Cesare Prandelli replaced Marcello Lippi as the head coach. Moreover, the team hasn't won any major trophy since 2006. A quarterfinal exit in Euro 2008 was followed by a humiliating first round exit in World cup 2010. The newer generation of Italian players has an opportunity to prove themselves on the grand stage. Will they rise to the occasion and restore their country's pride? Or will they waste this opportunity? We have to wait and watch.
Route to qualification
Italy are one of the few teams that have gone unbeaten in the qualifiers. They kick-started their long and arduous journey with a 2-1 victory against Estonia on 3rd September, 2010. Four days later, the Azzurri trashed Faroe Islands 5-0 at home. A goal-less draw against Northern Ireland saw them drop their first points of the campaign. Their next game against Serbia, played at Genoa, was abandoned due to violent behavior on the part of Serbian fans and the Italians were awarded a 3-0 win. After a six-month gap, The Italian Army continued its forward march conquering Estonia and Faroe Islands once again and dispatching Slovenia twice. After four consecutive games without conceding goals, the measly Italian defence conceded a solitary goal against Serbia in October 2011 and the game ended in a draw. Having ensured qualification, Italy beat Northern Ireland in their last game in what was essentially a dead rubber. Italy qualified as group winners, having won six and drawn two.
History at the Euros
Italy have qualified for the competition on eight different occasions. However, their only moment of European glory came way back in 1968 when they beat Yugoslavia to win the European Championship. They failed to get past the semi-final stage in the 1980 and the 1988 editions of the tournament. They finished as runners-up the 2000 edition, losing 1-2 to France in the final.
Italy are placed in Group C alongside Croatia, Ireland and Spain. Italy play their first game on June 10, 2012 against Spain, the reigning World and European champions. The Azzurri couldn't have asked for a tougher start to their campaign. They travel from Gdansk to Poznan to play their next game against Croatia, scheduled to be held on June 14, 2012. They complete their group proceedings on June 18, 2012 at the Municipal Stadium, Poznan against Ireland.
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon, Morgan De Sanctis, Salvatore Sirigu, Emiliano Viviano.
Defenders: Ignazio Abat, Davide Astori, Federico Balzaretti, Andrea Barzagli, Salvatore Bocchetti, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, Domenico Criscito, Christian Maggio, Angelo Obinze Ogbonna, Andrea Ranocchia.
Midfielders: Luca Cigarini, Daniele De Rossi, Alessandro Diamanti, Emanuele Giaccherini, Claudio Marchisio, Riccardo Montolivo, Thiago Motta, Antonio Nocerino, Andrea Pirlo, Ezequiel Schelotto, Marco Verratti.
Forwards: Mario Balotelli, Fabio Borini, Antonio Cassano, Mattia Destro, Antonio Di Natale, Sebastian Giovinco.
Antonio Cassano has prospered under the current manager, Cesare Prandelli. He scored six goals for the Azzurri in their qualifiers. He has the full faith of Prandelli who said that his enthusiasm was contagious. The captain and goal-keeper, Gianluigi Buffon has a safe pair of hands and has performed a praiseworthy job between the sticks. Mario Balotelli, though not exactly a shining star, is always a threat to the adversary.
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Gokul is an avid sports fan and blogger.
Article Source: Gokul_Muthukumaresan