Group B: Italy         Castellano   Page 2

Argentina  2

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Brazil  2

Bulgaria  2

Cameroon  2

Chile  2

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Denmark  2

England  2

France  2

Germany  2

Iran  2

Italy  2

Jamaica  2

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Netherlands  2

Nigeria  2

Norway  2

Paraguay  2

Romania  2

Saudi Arabia  2

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  Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio  

Coach: Cesare MALDINI

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vs. CHILE

11.06.98 Bordeaux

vs. CAMEROON

17.06.98 Montpellier

vs. AUSTRIA

23.06.98 Saint-Denis

Team Colors: Blue shirt, White pants

Confederation: UEFA

Three-time winners of the World Cup (1934-1938-1982)

World Cup finalists in 1970 and 1994

Third in the 1994 World Cup and fourth in 1978

Winner of the European championships in 1968

Key players: D Paolo Maldini (AC Milán),

F Fabrizio Ravenelli (Marseille, France),

F Gianluca Zola (Chelsea, England),

F Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus, Italy),

F Christian Vieri (Atlético de Madrid, Spain).

Paolo Maldini

©CnnSi/Allsport

Keep an Eye on: Paolo Maldini: Adventurous captain.

Christian Vieri: Strong middle forward.

Gianfranco Zola: Superbly skilled.

Analysis: Very strong defense, but offense is lacking for such an elite, skilled team. Coach's son, Paolo, might be best attacking defender in the world, but Italy must decide on forwards who can score. Quarterfinals, at least, maybe further.

History: The Roman football tradition in Italy goes back to the Renaissance era. Between the 15th and 17th centuries was a glorious example of soccer ancestry before the modern era. This was the ritualizaed football game known as giuoco del calcio fiorentino ("florentine kickball"). Calcio was a regulated game, more closely resembling rugby than soccer, that was played by the aristocracy during the Medici epoch, and it featured much running, jumping and tackling (in the American football sense). Goals were scored by throwing the ball over a designated spot on the perimeter of the field.

Calcio was an aristocrat's game and it did not survive into the modern era, except as an annual pageant for tourists. Its only legacy is the use of the word itself in place of an Italian adaptation of the English word "football".

Italy has always been highly regarded among the principal football nations in the world, not only because of its three victories in the World Cup, but also because of the country's great tradition. The Italian championship, the Serie A, is considered the best domestic league in the world, and leading clubs like AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan have been pre-eminent in European club competitions.

The "Squadra Azzurra", as the blue-clad Italians are known, are the beneficiaries of huge national support and immense media attention is given to every performance, good or bad. Several matches played by the Italian national team have special places in footballing history; like the victory of the team containing Mazzola, Riva and Rivera who beat Germany 4-3 after extra-time in the semi-finals of the World Cup in Mexico -- a match that will always remain engraved in the minds of those who saw it. The success in the 1982 World Cup in Spain is also one of the great moments of Italian football -- a win achieved when Paolo Rossi, Dino Zoff, Marco Tardelli and Gaetano Scirea were among the best of their generation. Since then, the Italians have not managed to win a major title and were unfortunate to lose to Brazil on penalties in the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

When Cesare Maldini took over the Italy team at the age of 64 and beat England at Wembley in Chile only his second game, Italians hailed a new messiah. It has not worked out as planned, but a group containing Chile, Cameroon and Austria should hold few fears.

The turning point in Maldini's fortunes came at Le Tournoi in June, when England beat a tired line-up 2-0 in Montpellier to establish a huge psychological advantage. Italy, who had scraped a 0-0 draw in their qualifier in Poland, were then held goalless in Georgia and Maldini was strongly criticized for his negative tactics in the first half. 

Next came the draw in Rome with England, which condemned Italy to the play-offs. A  1-1 draw in Moscow in the snow in the first leg of the play-offs brightened Italy's prospects and they won the return in Naples 1-0, unimpressively. Maldini said his team would not play the same way in later games, implying he would no longer use two big strikers. This should let in the likes of Gianfranco Zola and Alessandro Del Piero, whose flair and skill can compensate for the lack of a great playmaker in midfield, where Demitrio Albertini is not the equal of such past heroes as Giancarlo Antognoni and Gianni Rivera. Paulo Maldini remains a great force on the left flank, but there are problems on the right.

Trivia for the Pub: Now you know why they call it Calcio. That should win you a few pints. And Azzuri means Blue, the color of their shirts.

Important Names to drop: One you should never forget, G Dino Zoff, one of the best ever.

     

POSITION NAME AGE CAPS

G Gianluca Pagliuca 31 33

G Angelo Peruzzi 27 20  

G Gianluigi Buffon 19 1

D Antonio Benarrivo 29 23

D Fabio Cannavaro 24 12

D Alessandro Costacurta 31 51

D Ciro Ferrara 30 43

D Luigi Sartor 22 14  

D Paolo Maldini 29 85

D Alessandro Nesta 21 9

D Christian Panucci 24 7

M Gianluca Pessotto 27 3

M Demetrio Albertini 26 49

M Dino Baggio 26 44

M Antonio Conte 28 8

M Angelo Di Livio 31 19

M Roberto Di Matteo 27 29

M Diego Fuser 29 14

M Attilio Lombardo 31 18  

M Roberto Baggio 30 47

F Pierluigi Casiraghi 28 43

F Enrico Chiesa 26 6

F Alessandro Del Piero 23 16

F Filippo Inzaghi 24 3

F Fabrizio Ravanelli 29 19  

F Christian Vieri 24 7

F Gianfranco Zola 31 35

Links:

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World Cup History

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