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Perhaps, the most complete side in the World Cup, Italy is gifted with a rock-solid defence and an enterprising forward line. Little wonder, soccer-mad Italians are already smacking their lips in anticipation of a semi-final berth, at the very least.
Traditionally, known for its organised defence, today Italy boasts nippy attackers also. Italy's charge will be led by Totti, who can be exceptional both as playmaker and goal scorer.
The Azzurri attack is reinforced by the gifted Inzaghi and Del Pierro, both of whom can be difficult customers in the box. And, of course, Vieiri lends edge to the attack with his finishing touches.
In defence, Italy are well fortified. Cannavaro, Nesta and the dependable Maldini are closely knit and well organised. Also, Italy has the luxury of choosing between two world-class keepers in Toldo and Buffon.
Croatia, Ecuador and Mexico should serve as warm-ups before they run into serious opposition. History reveals that Italy have the tendency to stumble at the last hurdle. But if they play to their potential, the Azzurris are guaranteed to make it, at least to the last four.
Winners: 1934, 1938, 1982.
Gianluigi Buffon, Francesco Toldo, Christian Abbiati.
June 20, 2002
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