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1-Mario-Balotelli
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SquadEdit

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Mattia Perin (Genoa), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris Saint-Germain)

Defenders: Ignazio Abate (Milan), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Matteo Darmian (Torino), Mattia De Sciglio (Milan), Gabriel Paletta (Parma)

Midfielders: Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina), Antonio Candreva (Lazio), Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Marco Parolo (Parma), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus), Thiago Motta (Paris Saint-Germain), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain)

Forwards: Mario Balotelli (Milan), Antonio Cassano (Parma), Alessio Cerci (Torino), Ciro Immobile (Torino), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli)

England
Edit

Team ProfileEdit

Italy will travel to Brazil for the FIFA World Cup finals bidding to equal the record for tournament wins set by their illustrious hosts.

The Azzurri are the second most decorated side in World Cup history with four titles, and will have their gaze trained on a fifth crown, which would see them move level with Brazil and dash home fans' hopes of yet another triumph.

To do that, Italy will have to improve immeasurably on their performances at the last finals. 

Having come into the tournament in South Africa as defending champions, they were eliminated in the group stages after failing to win any of their three matches in a seemingly favourable group containing Slovakia, Paraguay and New Zealand.

It was the first time Italy had failed to progress beyond the first round since 1974, and provided a disappointing footnote to the second spell in charge for Marcello Lippi, who had guided the team to World Cup glory in Germany four years previously.

Cesare Prandelli, the man who succeeded Lippi as head coach following that nightmare campaign in 2010, has overseen a welcome upturn in fortunes.

He guided the team to the final of the UEFA European Championship two years later, where they were soundly beaten 4-0 by a Spain side playing breathtaking football.

Prandelli overcame that setback, masterminding a third-placed finish at the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2013, and a successful qualifying campaign for the World Cup.

Italy went unbeaten throughout their 10 matches in UEFA Group B, finishing six points clear of second-placed Denmark.

However, Prandelli's men have been handed a tricky draw for the finals alongside Uruguay, England and Costa Rica, meaning they can ill-afford a repeat of the slow start made by the Italian team in 2010.

Matters on the pitch can at least receive full focus after speculation over the future of Prandelli, which threatened to overshadow Italy's build-up to the tournament, was resolved prior to the finals.

It was confirmed in March that the 56-year-old would sign a two-year contract extension, which was duly rubber-stamped in May, taking his tenure through to the end of the European Championship in 2016.

As well as enjoying greater clarity and security in his position, Prandelli can also call on a quartet of players with World Cup-winning experience in his party.

The talismanic duo of goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo remain present from the victorious 2006 side, along with Daniele De Rossi and Andrea Barzagli.

Juventus star Pirlo, so often the man to dictate terms in the middle of the field for club and country, will be charged with providing the ammunition for the likes of Mario Balotelli, who has enjoyed another productive season in a toiling Milan outfit.

If the likes of Pirlo and Balotelli can combine to great effect, with Buffon leading by example at the other end of the field, Italy will feel they are in with a chance of spoiling the party for the home fans and matching Brazil's quintet of crowns.


Player Profile (Mario Balotelli)Edit

Position: Forward
Date of Birth: August 12, 1990
Club: Milan
International Debut: v Ivory Coast (August 10, 2010)
World Cup Appearances: 0
World Cup Goals: 0

Mario Balotelli is never far from the spotlight, but Italy fans will hope for only positive headlines at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

The striker has courted controversy throughout his career to date, with attention often focusing on his off-field antics rather than performances on the pitch.

One of Balotelli’s most notorious moments of controversy came in October 2011, when police and fire crews were called to his house to deal with a blaze that had started after fireworks had been set off in his bathroom.

The incident occurred less than 48 hours before Manchester City’s derby with bitter rivals Manchester United, but Balotelli shrugged off the media storm surrounding him, revealing a T-shirt emblazoned with the message 'Why always me?' after scoring his side's first goal in an emphatic 6-1 triumph.

For all his apparent eccentricities, there can be no doubting Balotelli's ability, with a 40-yard wonder strike for Milan against Bologna in February providing further evidence of his underlying natural talent.

His gifts have seen him play for a trio of Europe's top clubs - starting out at Inter, before moving to the Premier League with City ahead of a return to his homeland to represent Inter's fierce rivals Milan.

Still only 23, Balotelli boasts a list of honours that would be the envy of many players.

He has won domestic titles in both Italy and England, having provided the assist for Sergio Aguero's memorable winning goal that secured Premier League glory for City in 2012, as well as winners' medals in the UEFA Champions League, FA Cup and Coppa Italia.

After moving to Milan from Manchester in January 2013, Balotelli showed scintillating form, netting 12 goals in just 13 Serie A appearances before the end of the season.

The frontman was less prolific in the 2013-14 campaign, but still finished as the club's top scorer in a turbulent year at San Siro.

Italy supporters will certainly look to Balotelli to provide goals in his first World Cup, as the country seek a record-equalling fifth title.

After making his full international debut against Ivory Coast in August 2010 - after Italy had exited the finals in South Africa at the group stage two months previously - Balotelli has become a regular member of the national squad.

And he demonstrated his devastating finishing power by scoring both goals in Italy's 2-1 semi-final victory over Germany in the UEFA European Championships in 2012.

He also found the net twice in three FIFA Confederations Cup appearances 12 months ago, before missing a semi-final defeat to Spain due to a thigh injury.

A goalscoring return to Brazil would be welcomed by Italy, and Balotelli can take confidence from registering five goals in as many appearances during qualifying as Cesare Prandelli's men topped UEFA Group B with ease.

However, that campaign was not without its troubles. Balotelli was dismissed in a goalless draw against Czech Republic, before repeatedly punching and kicking the wall of the tunnel in frustration as he was led away.

He subsequently conceded he still had much to learn, but now has the opportunity to showcase increased maturity on football's grandest stage.


News SourcesEdit

http://www.football-italia.net/

http://www.gazzetta.it/

http://www.corriere.it/

http://www.ansa.it/english/index.html

http://www.figc.it/index_en.shtml