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Page last updated at 16:19 GMT, Thursday, 15 May 2008 17:19 UK

Italy team guide

BBC Sport's Euro 2008 guide to Italy.


Fixtures (Group C):

Italy

v Netherlands - 9 June, 1945 BST, Berne
Netherlands team guide

v Romania - 13 June, 1700 BST, Zurich
Romania team guide

v France - 17 June, 1945 BST, Zurich
France team guide


How did they get there: They finished above France and topped Group A, but not without a few scares on the way. Drew at home to Lithuania and lost in France, but home and away wins over dangerous Scotland ensured their qualification.

Roberto Donadoni

Manager: Roberto Donadoni. The 63-times capped midfielder was a surprise choice to replace World Cup-winning Marcello Lippi in 2006, at the age of 42. He had spent five years coaching in Italy and despite a difficult start, he soon began to produce results. "We decided to gamble on a young man who could become truly great," said former Italian Football Federation vice-president Demetrio Albertini.

Captain: Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is likely to take over the armband after Italy's World Cup-winning skipper Fabio Cannavaro was ruled out when he tore ankle ligaments in the week before the start of Euro 2008.

606: DEBATE

Euro highlights: Won the tournament as hosts in 1968, rather quaintly beating USSR on the toss of a coin in the semis, drawing the first final 1-1 with Yugoslavia and then winning the replay 2-0. The only other time they reached the final was in 2000, when David Trezeguet's golden goal for France broke Italian hearts.

Euro legend: Tricky. No one hugely stands out in Italy's overall disappointing record, so the legendary Luigi Riva gets the nod. He is Italy's all-time record goalscorer with 35, was one of the great strikers of his generation and opened the scoring in the 1968 final replay with a clinical left-foot drive.

Andrea Pirlo

Star man: Andrea Pirlo. The AC Milan midfielder came to prominence big time at the World Cup with some stylish displays - including three Fifa man of the match performances - that helped his side lift the trophy. Technically gifted with an eye for a defence-splitting pass, Pirlo is Italy's key to unlocking the tightest defences.

A cartoon of Gennaro Gattuso
Strengths: They know how to win a tournament and they have as many world-class players - Gianluigi Buffon, Cannavaro, Gennaro Gattuso, Pirlo, Luca Toni et al - as anyone else. Bayern Munich striker Toni is fast becoming an irrepressible spearhead and they should not be short of goals.

Weaknesses: Donadoni lacks managerial experience in these pressure-cooker situations and the players are still getting used to his 4-3-3 formation - a radical change from the 4-4-2 Italian coaches usually prefer. If Antonio Di Natale is out of form or injured, finding two supporting forwards for Toni might be a problem.

World ranking: 3rd.

Our verdict: Missing the cunning of Lippi, they may struggle to hit the heights of two years ago and the notoriously slow starters must be careful not to be eliminated immediately in such a fearsome-looking group.




see also
Pick your Italy XI
23 May 08 |  Italy
Country profile: Italy
15 Apr 08 |  Country profiles


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