Italy set for a very good year

Italy may have finished 2011 with a 1-0 defeat to Copa America winners Uruguay in a friendly game in Rome but the Azzurri have plenty to sing about.

Proud Italian faces

Frank Sinatra, the legendary crooner, once wrote a famous song about it being "a very good year". Similarly, Italy, the birthplace of Sinatra's parents, are enjoying positives all around on the football pitch.

Italy under coach Cesare Prandelli cruised through their qualifying group undefeated with eight wins from the 10 games. Credit must go to the manager who had the unenviable task of picking up the pieces of Italy's comical defence of their World Cup crown in South Africa in 2010.

Only a fool would write off Italy at a major championship and you would indeed be a brave man to knock the progress the team has made in the post-Marcelo Lippi era. Even against Uruguay - a team that dumped Argentina out of the Copa America en route to the title - the Italians dominated possession and were unlucky to not have at least drawn the game.


World ranking: 6 (as of November 2011).
Cesare Prandelli.

Can they win it?

It is not odd that Italy look like a different team under Cesare Prandelli. The former Fiorentina tactician crucially decided it was time to inject new blood into an ageing squad which had peaked in 2006 when they won the World Cup.

However, if Italy are to reign supreme at the European Championships next summer, it will be a more familiar face in blue which will get them there. Andrea Pirlo is no spring chicken anymore but his influence is as strong as ever. Only Pirlo made more successful passes (737) in Euro 2012 qualifying than Spain's Sergio Busquets (717), according to Opta Sports.

Italy are not a one man team though and Prandelli has introduced a code of conduct that must be adhered to as even the more talented players on the team like Mario Balotelli and Daniele De Rossi have found out.

"This has been an important year," Prandelli said after the 1-0 defeat to Uruguay.

"In 2012 we have to continue to work to become again an important team."

Best performance at the European Championships: Winners in 1968.

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