EURO 2012 Group C:GROUP of Debt:Azzurri’s Bad Boy,The Silent Leader and Captain Fantastic.

Italy has been drawn in  the ‘Group of Debt’ with Spain,Croatia and Ireland.

The services sector in Italy fell from 44.8 to 44.1, with employment shrinking at its fastest rate since July 2009, while the Bank of Italy predicted the country’s economy was set to shrink this year.The youth in Spain has also been protesting heavily against soaring unemployment, which marks the current financial crisis in Europe. Spain’s unemployment has doubled in three years and in the Irish Republic, unemployment figures are at their highest level in 10 years.Italy kick off their EURO 2012 campaign against La Roja on June 10.Here’s a quick profile of the team:

Ranked number 12th in the world,it has only gone the wrong way for Italy since they won the World Cup in 2006. Huge scandals in the Italian football are accompanied by injuries of crucial players. After The catastrophic results of the 2010 World Cup edition, Italy needs to get together and show a decent performance. History shows that the Italian national squads of 1982 and 2006 got motivated by the match-fixing scandals around the team and went on to win the tournaments. Will it happen for the third time?

Coach Cesare Prandelli is probably the brightest Italian tactician of his generation. He has been a candidate to appear on charge of Italy for a long time and now he got the chance. His team was lucky enough to compete in one of the weakest qualification groups, putting together a fantastic run of 8 wins and 2 draws, conceding only twice.

The tournament was meant to be a home tournament for Italy but was given to Poland and Ukraine due to the football unrest in the country.

Statistics against

Spain:

Spain won all of their matches during the Euro 2008 except the one against Italy in quarterfinals, when the match ended 0:0 and only misses from De Rossi and Di Natale in the after-match penalty shoot-outs let the Spaniards overcome the hurdle of reigning World Champions.

Croatia:

Italy’s only win against Croatia took place back in 1942. Croatia is one of the few teams in the world having a positive balance against Italians. Their most famous victory is the 2002 World Cup Group G 2-1 win over the Azzurri, who were led by Giovanni Trapattoni, currently working with the Irish team. Worth to mention that Italy had two clear goals disallowed in that match.

Rep. of Ireland:

It was the Rep. of Ireland-Italy match in Poznan, the dramatic Group E opener at World Cup in USA ended 1-0 thanks to an early goal by Ray Houghton leading the Eire to unexpectedly take the victory that evening.

HOW THEY QUALIFIED

Italy conceded only 2 goals during the qualification, which is the best result among all the participants.

GROUP C GP GD PTS
1 Italy (Q) 10 8 2 0 18 26
2 Estonia 10 5 1 4 1 16
3 Serbia 10 4 3 3 1 15
4 Slovenia 10 4 2 4 4 14
5 Northern Ireland 10 2 3 5 -4 9
6 Faroe Islands 10 1 1 8 -20 4

TOP SCORERS

6 – Antonio Cassano
2 – Giampaolo Pazzini
1 – Leonardo Bonucci, Daniele De Rossi,Alberto Gilardino,Claudio Marchisio,Thiago Motta,Andrea Pirlo,FabioQuagliarella,Giuseppe Rossi

PAST RECORDS IN THE EUROS

1960
Did not enter
1988
Semi-finalists
1964
Did not qualify
1992
Did not qualify
1968
Winners
1996
Group stage
1972
Did not qualify
2000
Runners-up
1976
Did not qualify
2004
Group stage
1980
Fourth place
2008
Quarter-finals
1984
Did not qualify
2012
Qualified as group winners

THE BOSS | Cesare Prandelli

On 20 May 2010, Fiorentina confirmed that Prandelli was given permission to hold talks with F.IG.C. president Giancarlo Abete to replace Marcello Lippi as head coach of the Italian national team after the 2010 FIFA World Cup.Prandelli knew when he accepted the opportunity to succeed Marcelo Lippi as Italy coach after the 2010 World Cup that he would have a massive job on his hands. However, just how big only became evident in South Africa as Italy suffered a humiliating first-round exit.
 
Credit to the former Fiorentina boss, though, he remained undeterred – even after a defeat in his first game in charge, against Ivory Coast – and promptly set about rejuvenating the Azzurri, injecting some badly needed youth into an ageing squad while at the same time wisely resisting the temptation to dispense with all of the heroes of Germany 2006.
 

Cesare Claudio Prandelli (54) arguably has his favourites but crucially form has, for the most part, been the determining factor in his selections – hence the inspired decision to recall the enigmatic  Cassano – and that has been key to the restoration of confidence and belief among players and supporters alike.

In a combined 18 qualification games for the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, Del Bosque has won all 18. He has only ever lost two competitive encounters: to the United States in the 2009 Confederations Cup and to Switzerland in the opening game of the 2010 World Cup.

Italy Squad EURO 2012:

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Morgan De Sanctis (Napoli), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris St-Germain).

Defenders: Ignazio Abate (Milan), Federico Balzaretti (Palermo), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Christian Maggio (Napoli), Angelo Ogbonna (Torino).

Midfielders: Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Alessandro Diamanti (Bologna), Emanuele Giaccherini (Juventus), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Riccardo Montolivo (Fiorentina), Thiago Motta (Paris St Germain), Antonio Nocerino (Milan), Andrea Pirlo (Juventus).

Forwards: Mario Balotelli (Manchester City), Fabio Borini (Roma), Antonio Cassano (Milan), Antonio Di Natale (Udinese), Sebastian Giovinco (Parma).

 THE CAPTAIN| Gianluigi Buffon

Honours

FIFA World Cup: winner 2006

Coppa Italia : winner 1999,2002, 2003

Supercoppa Italiana:winner  1999
Serie A : winner 2002, 2003, 2012 (also won 2005, 2006, removed from Juventus due to calciopoli)
Serie B :winner  2007Bravo Award: 1999
Best European Goalkeeper: 2003
FIFA 100Yashin Award: 2006
2006 FIFA World Cup All-Star TeamEuropean Footballer of the Year (Silver Ball): 2006
Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year: 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008
UEFA Team of the Year: 2003, 2004, 2006
UEFA Euro Team of the Tournament: 2008
FIFPro World XI: 2006, 2007
IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper: 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007
UEFA Euro 2008 Team of the TournamentIFFHS Best goalkeeper of the decade: 2000-2010
IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper of the 21st Century: 2012

UEFA EURO 2008: Team of the Tournament
UEFA Champions League: runner-up 2003
UEFA Cup: winner 1999
UEFA European Under-21 Championship: winner 1996
UEFA Club Footballer of the Year: 2003
UEFA Club Goalkeeper of the Year: 2003
UEFA.com users’ Team of the Year: 2003, 2004, 2006

The first-choice goalkeeper for Juventus and Italy over the past decade, Gianluigi Buffon (34) equalled Dino Zoff’s record of 112 appearances in goal for the Azzurri in November 2011. The 2006 FIFA World Cup winner would have won many more caps but for injury, one of which restricted him to just 45 minutes at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Born in Carrara, Tuscany, Buffon joined the youth system at Parma in 1991 and by 17 had made his Serie A debut in a 0-0 draw with AC Milan on 19 November 1995.Buffon hails from a sporting family. His father was a shot-putter, his mother a discus thrower, and his two sisters are volleyball players. His grandfather’s cousin, Lorenzo Buffon, played in goal for Milan.

A participant at the 1996 Olympics, Buffon made his senior debut for Italy aged 19 as an emergency substitute for the injured Gianluca Pagliuca in a 1998 FIFA World Cup qualifying play-off against Russia. He replaced Pagliuca as the Azzurri No1 during UEFA EURO 2000 qualification but missed the final tournament with an injured hand.

A UEFA Cup winner with Parma in 1999 against Olympique de Marseille in the Moscow final, he became the world’s costliest keeper when he joined Juventus for €52m two years later. He saved two penalties in the 2003 UEFA Champions League final shoot-out against Milan at Old Trafford but still ended up on the losing side.

He started all of Italy’s matches at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, and UEFA EURO 2004. He conceded only two goals in seven matches during Italy’s triumph in Germany – an own-goal and a penalty – yet made no saves in the final shoot-out victory over France.

Buffon celebrated his 100th outing for the Azzurri by keeping a clean sheet as Italy drew 0-0 with the Netherlands in a Pescara friendly on 14 November 2009. He started the opening match at the 2010 World Cup but was substituted at half-time against Paraguay with a sciatic nerve problem, from which he would not return until the following January.

He remained with Juventus after their enforced relegation to Serie B in 2006 and missed just three matches in the second tier as the Bianconeri made an immediate return to Italy’s top division − passed 300 league appearances for La Vecchia Signora during the 2011/12 season in which unbeaten Juventus won their 28th Italian championship.

Buffon received a commemorative cap and medal from UEFA to mark his century of international appearances on 11 October 2011, before Italy’s 3-0 win against Northern Ireland in UEFA European Championship qualifying.

SILENT LEADER| Andrea Pirlo

Honours

UEFA Champions League: winner 2003, 2007.
UEFA Super Cup: winner 2003, 2007
UEFA European Under-21 Championship: winner 2000
UEFA.com users’ Team of the Year: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011

Serie A: 2004, 2011,2012Coppa Italia: 2003Supercoppa Italiana: 2004
FIFA Club World Cup: 2007

2004 Summer Olympics – Bronze medal

FIFA World Cup:winner  2006

UEFA European Under-21 Championship Golden Player: 2000

UEFA European Under-21 Championship Top Scorer: 20002006 FIFA World Cup Team of the TournamentFIFA World Cup Bronze Ball Award: 20062006 FIFA World Cup Final Man of the Match
FIFPro World XI: 2006

Massimiliano Allegri has made few errors since taking charge of AC Milan but allowing Andrea Pirlo to leave San Siro on a free transfer at the end of last season is beginning to look like one of the biggest transfer gaffes in history.Pirlo has been a revelation at Juventus this term, the key component in the Old Lady’s rejuvenation under new coach Antonio Conte.Pirlo’s position at the base of the Italy midfield appeared under threat after the disastrous 2010 World Cup campaign but, as Euro 2012 approaches, the 34-year-old playmaker remains one of the first names on the teamsheet.As Prandelli said recently: “Nobody creates time and space like him.

Italy’s veteran schemer reached a career pinnacle when he starred in the Azzurri’s 2006 FIFA World Cup triumph, but there is no indication that Andrea Pirlo’s crafty playmaking skills are on the wane. He was a regular in UEFA EURO 2012 qualification and has thrived at Juventus after a decade of exceptional service at AC Milan.

He began with his home-town club Brescia but had an unsettling start to his career, notably with Inter, before eventually finding his feet at rivals Milan, where he arrived in 2001.A star turn for Italy’s Under-21 side, he captained the Azzurrini to the European title in 2000, scoring twice in the final against the Czech Republic, and also played at two Olympic Games, in Sydney and Athens; made his senior debut in September 2002.

That was followed by a UEFA Champions League win in 2003 with Scudetto success 12 months later and a place in Italy’s squad for EURO 2004, where he made two appearances.He starred at the 2006 World Cup finals, scoring the first goal in an opening 2-0 win against Ghana, starting all seven games and being named man of the match in three fixtures, including the semi-final and the final.

Pirlo won an international treble of UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup with Milan in 2007.A scorer of a spectacular long-range strike in a 3-2 win at Real Madrid CF on matchday 3 of the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League, he was called up to the FIFA World Cup finals the following summer but a calf injury reduced his contribution to a cameo role in the final group game, a 3-2 defeat by Slovakia.

In May 2011, a few days after finishing the season as a Serie A winner, he announced he was leaving the Rossoneri on a free transfer to join Juventus.His first season with the Bianconeri brought a Coppa Italia final, though Juventus were beaten by SSC Napoli, and another Serie A title as Pirlo started 37 games in the league – a career best

SUPER MARIOMario Balotelli

Honours

Serie A :winner 2008, 2009, 2010Coppa Italia : winner 2010Supercoppa Italiana : winner 2008UEFA Champions League : winner 2010
FA Cup :winner 2011Premier League: winner 2012

Golden Boy Award : 2010
FA Cup Final Man of the Match: 2011


 
The first ever black player in the Italian national football team is only 21, but has earned a huge reputation of a talented player with a silly behavior. But many see in Mario the most talented forward in Italy and Prandelli looks at the positive side of Balo, too, hoping he will score numerous goals for the Azzurri.Mario Balotelli has scored just once in 8 caps for Italy.He courts controversy like perhaps no other player in the game today. Consequently, it is very easy to forget that this is a very special footballing talent – and one that has suddenly become very important to Italy with Giuseppe Rossi and Cassano now in real jeopardy of missing Euro 2012.
 
Powerfully built, Balotelli is an explosive striker capable of brute force but there is also a subtlety and finesse to his game, as evidenced by his wonderfully precise finish in this season’s Manchester derby at Old Trafford.Balotelli has long believed that he is football’s ‘next big thing’; Euro 2012 would be a fine place to start justifying his incredibly high opinion of himself.

Mario Barwuah Balotelli’s (21) unconventional behaviour has earned him as much publicity as his exceptional footballing ability. An unpredictable, skilful striker, he has enhanced his maverick profile at Manchester City FC following an eventful period at FC Internazionale Milano. Although yet to start a competitive international, he is UEFA EURO 2012-bound with Italy.

Born in Sicily as Mario Barwuah to Ghanaian parents, he was adopted and brought up by an Italian family; made his debut in Serie C1 for AC Lumezzane at 15 and joined Inter soon afterwards.In 2007/08, under coach Roberto Mancini, he made his first appearances both in Serie A and the Coppa Italia, becoming the joint-top scorer in the latter competition with four goals and helping his team win the Scudetto.

He  officially became an Italian citizen on turning 18 in August 2008; scored on his Under-21 debut for Italy the following month in a 2009 UEFA European Championship qualifier against Greece, twice in the second leg of the play-off against Israel and once at the finals in Sweden, where he was also sent off, as the Azzurrini reached the semi-finals.

Highly influential in the second half of Inter’s 2008/09 Scudetto-winning campaign under José Mourinho, scoring eight goals in 13 games, and won the treble of Serie A, Coppa Italia and UEFA Champions League the following year.Super Mario made his senior Italy debut on 10 August 2010, two days before his 20th birthday, in a friendly against the Ivory Coast in London; registered his first goal on 11 November 2011 in a 2-0 victory against Poland, the first international staged at the new Municipal Stadium Wroclaw.

He ended his first season at Manchester City, following a reported €28m transfer from Inter in August 2010, by helping the Citizens to victory in the FA Cup final, and played a key role the following campaign as his team pipped Manchester United FC to the Premier League title.

This article was written by Nana Abiri (@NOKA88)
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