Italy are undoubtedly one of the most successful national teams in footballing history, 4 time World Cup Winners, but as they have no recent European Championship trophy in their cabinet - Italy will be making a bold bid to put that to rights in France.
The Azzuri had a pretty comfortable qualifying campaign, winning 7 games and drawing 3 under their new manager Antonio Conte. The former Juventus coach has given new up and coming players the opportunity in the first team and has added to the already tenacious reputation of the Italian side as shown by going undefeated through their qualifying campaign, the question that remains to be answered is how will this new look side cope with the higher standard of competition at Euro 2016.
Undoubtedly the hardest fixture in their qualifying campaign was home and away against Croatia, and Italy failed to take 3 points from either game as both ended in draws, this will no doubt be a concern for Conte in the later stages of Euro 2016 when the Italians will face much improved opposition. However, their history books will be something the manager can look to for inspiration. Italy always tend to hit form in the big competitions and the 2012 renewal of this very tournament shows this trend as after a sluggish time during qualifying the Italians managed to scrape through the group and then beat England on penalties before beating Germany 2-1 on their way to the final.
If Italy's tendency to perform on the big stage can continue at Euro 2016 and their fledgling squad can perform to the expected standards, Italy may well prove to be a dark horse in this competition.
For a team as prolific as Italy anything but lifting the trophy will surely be a disappointment. They come into this in great form under their new manager and will be hoping they can put behind them their dire performance in the World Cup. To predict where Italy will finish is difficult as they do have a hard group to contend with but if they can reach the knockout stages then the possibilities could be endless. The sensible money would be on Italy to make at least the Quarter-finals and from there it is any ones game, with their vast experience to call on, Italy may yet add to their impressive trophy cabinet and pick up their first European title since 1968.
|Sweden||1992||Did not qualify||-|
|Belgium / Netherlands||2000||Runners-up||2|
|Austria / Switzerland||2008||Quarter-finals||8|
|Poland / Ukraine||2012||Runners-up||2|
Italy can usually be relied upon to perform with credit during the European Championships and this year should be no different. Although adding to their 1968 success will be a tricky task.
|3||Rep of Ireland||3||1||1||1||2||4||4|
|13.06.16||17.00||Rep of Ireland||1 - 1||Sweden|
|13.06.16||20.00||Belgium||0 - 2||Italy|
|17.06.16||14.00||Italy||1 - 0||Sweden|
|18.06.16||14.00||Belgium||3 - 0||Rep of Ireland|
|22.06.16||20.00||Italy||0 - 1||Rep of Ireland|
|22.06.16||20.00||Sweden||0 - 1||Belgium|
Italy will be expected to sail through their group but the final finishing position is certainly in doubt. Sweden and Republic of Ireland are the two lower ranked teams and this Italian side will be expected to win both of these games comfortably. The group challenge will come on the 13th June in the first game of the group as Italy play Belgium in what is sure to be an enthralling game of football.
Belgium are an unknown quantity coming to France and may prove very difficult to beat for this Italian side. The advantage the Italians have is their tournament experience and this may prove vital in their first game as the Belgians are a young side who lack the wisdom of international competition and may well improve throughout the tournament. This could mean that the best time to play Belgium is very early on and the Italians will be expected to take full advantage, win the game and top the group.
Here's a list of the 4 teams drawn in Group E and their FIFA World Ranking, as you can see, Belgium are by far the highest ranked team at FIFA rank no. 2, with Italy weighing in second at 15.
Qualification saw Italy score goals from a variety of positions, with a solid defensive strategy and a lone striker the Italians send their big defenders forward for set pieces as you can see with no less than 3 defenders getting on the score sheet.
Italy tend to play with a packed midfield and will probably only deploy 1 main striker at Euro 2016. This Striker will more than likely be Graziano Pelle who scored 3 times during qualifying and he is expected to be the player who will sit on the opposing defenders shoulder and be there to finish any chances that come his way.
|Eder Citadin Martins||29||Forward||2|
|Stephan El Shaarawy||23||Forward||1|
|Daniele De Rossi||32||Midfield||1|
Italy are expected to get through Group E in fine style and beat Belgium, their closest competition. This should ensure top spot en route to the last 16 where they will most likely face Group D runners up, hotly tipped to be Croatia. The Croats will offer a different challenge for this Italian side as they have the all important international experience and have a number of high quality options going forward, this could be a potential banana skin for the Italians.
However, the great experience of the Italians and their far deeper squad should mean they scrape past Croatia and into the Quarter-finals. The Quarter-finals will bring a different challenge as you are almost certain to face an elite side and Italy will be relying on their vast knowledge of competition football to see them through. The most likely opponent for Italy here is the World Cup Champions Germany and these two sides have history as Italy put the Germans out of the last European Championships in the Semi-finals. This wrong may be righted as far as Germany are concerned as Italy don't really have the same quality in their team as they had last time around and the bet would be Italy to exit in the Quarter-finals.
Gianluigi Buffon is certainly the main man for Italy both on and off the pitch. His 156 caps is the most any Italian has achieved in their history and his experience is what holds this side together. It may be strange for a goalkeeper to be a teams star player and this is certainly an exception as the Italian captain has seen and done all of this before and he will be the man that the younger players look up to for confidence. He will be crucial for Italy as they have had a few recent retirements which has meant that the average age of the squad has come down dramatically and his leadership will be crucial for this young side in the battles that will surely come.
The Italians are usually known for being defensive and very hard to break down, this again will be the case with the squad heading to France. Their defence will certainly be key in determining how far this side can go as they are surely one of the most compact and well drilled back lines coming into the tournament, most sides will struggle to create chances as the Italians tend to keep a narrow shape with very few gaps in behind the midfield.
When in possession, Italy tend to play a nice fluid style of football and are more than capable of keeping the ball in tight areas. They tend to try and break down the defence by playing through the middle but have the advantage of having physical players who can get on the end of a cross if needed and are certainly a threat from set pieces. Italy will only be broken down by an elite team as this solid side will be a match for most nations at Euro 2016.