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Star player:
Andrea Pirlo

Previous appearances:
1934 (winners), 1938 (winners), 1950 (first round), 1962 (first round), 1966 (first round), 1970 (runners-up), 1974 (first round), 1978 (first round), 1982 (winners), 1986 (second round), 1990 (third place), 1994 (runners-up), 1998 (quarter-finals), 2002 (second round), 2006 (winners).

How they qualified 
Cyprus (a)           2-1
Georgia (h)          2-0
Bulgaria (a)          0-0
Montenegro (h)    2-1
Montenegro (a)    2-0
Ireland (h)           1-1
Georgia (a)          2-0
Bulgaria (h)          2-0
Ireland (a)           2-2
Cyprus (h)           3-2

So many of the 2006 side are still in place under Lippi, the man who led them to glory in Germany. The question is whether they will have enough in the tank to become the first side to retain the World Cup since Brazil in 1962. The semi-finals look like being the end of the road for the Azzurri this time.

Strange but true
Reserve defender Nicola Legrottaglie is a part time pastor with strong views on homosexuality. He published a book last year which claims “ it’s written clear in the bible that homosexuality, whether masculine or feminine, is wrong.”

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