Mark Bateman

The 2006 FIFA World Cup winners go into the tournament top of qualifying group eight and undefeated so far. However, they haven’t had everything go their way since winning the world’s most coveted trophy three years ago and exited Euro 2008 at the first stage. Since then Marcello Lippi, who guided the team to the World Cup in Berlin, has returned as coach and rejuvenated the side. It would now take a devastating collapse in form for the Italians to not be in South Africa next year.

Marcello Lippi

Probably the most successful national team boss in Italian football history, Lippi presided over the team’s 2006 World Cup victory in Germany, beating France in the final. Lippi then left the top job but returned last summer after the Azzurri’s poor showing at Euro 2008. The team have been turned round over the past year and more success is not beyond the team under Lippi’s guidance. Crucially the squad believe in the 61 year-old coach and he is guaranteed respect.
Players to Watch

Fabio Cannavaro – Centre-back – Juventus (Italy)

The 35-year-old defender, who has recently moved from Real Madrid to Juventus, made his 100th international appearance during the World Cup final in 2006 and is still an ever-present at the heart of the national team’s defence. He is composed on the ball and is a natural-born leader, marshalling those around him efficiently and effectively. Cannavaro will have a major incentive at both the Confederations Cup and the World Cup, because it could be the centre back’s last international competition for the Azzurri.
Luca Toni – Striker – Bayern Munich (Germany)

The Bayern Munich forward is one of Europe’s most wanted players and is a transfer target for a number of English Premier League teams. The 32-year-old is one of the finest finishers in the world and is one of the national team’s most threatening attacking players in the wake of Francesco Totti’s retirement. The Confederations Cup will be an excellent run out for Toni and, along with Fernando Torres and David Villa of Spain, he could be the competition’s top goalscorer.
Daniele De Rossi – Midfielder – Roma (Italy)

The Roma midfielder has had a turbulent international career from scoring a goal on his debut against Norway to being shown a red card at the 2006 World Cup for elbowing USA forward Brian McBride, for which he was banned for four matches. But no one can doubt De Rossi’s natural talent and eye for goal, and the player is an important part of Marcello Lippi’s midfield.


Italy are one of the major contenders for the Confederations Cup this summer. The team has returned to its best under the watchful-eye of Marcello Lippi and are on course to defend their title as World Champions next year. They have been drawn in the more difficult Group B along with Brazil, USA and Egypt and will have to be at their best to avoid potential embarrassment.

There has been some disquiet amongst Azzurri supporters who want Lippi to blood more youth, and quickly. The Confederations Cup would appear to be the perfect opportunity to do just that, but whatever Lippi does, the only way to avoid criticism in an ultra football critical nation as Italy is to return with the cup.

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