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Group A: Italy

Nickname:Azzurri

Fifa ranking:8

Coach:Cesare Prandelli

Star players:Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus); Andrea Pirlo (Juventus); Mario Balotelli (AC Milan)

Recent form:W, D, D

Four times world champions Italy qualified for the Confederations Cup by dint of finishing runners-up to Spain at Euro 2012.

That tournament signified the revitalisation of the Azzurri, who embarrassingly crashed out of the World Cup in South Africa in 2010 after the group stage, without winning a game as lame duck world champions.

Nobody had expected them to fare so well in Poland and Ukraine, but under Cesare Prandelli Italy were a breath of fresh air.

Legendary skipper and goalkeeper, Gigi Buffon, was a rock between the sticks. Veteran midfielder Andrea Pirlo showed he is still a pass master, and one of the best playmakers in the business at the ripe old age of 34.

Up front, Mario Balotelli temporarily became the surprise darling of the Latin nation, spearheading their attack alongside his AC Milan club-mate Stephen El Shaarawy with gusto. Who can ever forget Super Mario's cracking goal against pre-tournament favourites Germany, which sent Italy into the final against La Furia Roja?

Cilck here to see Super Mario strutting his stuff!

Italy’s undeniable class and real footballing pedigree makes them joint-favourites to progress from Group A along with hosts Brazil.

They enter the tournament after a 2-2 friendly draw with minnows Haiti that Prandelli described as “embarrassing” however, and so their opponents will know that the ghosts of 2010 still linger.

But with a mix of experience and youthful exuberance, ‘catenaccio’ and swashbuckling attacking intent, the Azzurri are surely one of the outside bets to add the Confederations Cup to their glittering catalogue of big tournament success.

Click here to see our Azzurri photo collection!

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