THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

What are the expectations for the team?
Few genuinely believe the Azzurri can win the competition, but plenty are hoping for a decent showing and some sort of statement of intent after the traumas of South Africa and the quarter-final exit four years ago. The old "strong Juventus, strong Italy" argument has been getting a good airing, but Antonio Conte's rigorous fitness regimes could have worn out the Juventus players come tournament time.

Is the coach popular?
Yes. His faith in younger players, user-friendly media image and a stress-free qualifying campaign has ensured Cesare Prandelli a sympathetic press. He is tough when he needs to be and there is admiration for his man-management skills - he likes to play the role of the father figure to wayward sons Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano. Most supporters appreciate his unruffled approach. This could change if results turn against him, so a smooth ride is by no means guaranteed.

Have any players appeared in TV commercials or other advertising?
At the time of writing we have been mercifully spared any more of those D&G underwear ads featuring oiled-up players posing moodily in tight shreddies, which were disturbingly omnipresent before previous tournaments.

Which players are good interviewees and who are worst?
Gianluigi Buffon and Daniele de Rossi are good talkers, though they lack Cassano's entertainment value - all self-effacing charm and chuckles. He is a lovely bloke by all accounts, but Andrea Pirlo sounds in pain when he speaks. He could swiftly put a room full of sugar-rushed five-year-olds to sleep.

Are then any players with unusual hobbies or business interests?
Pirlo is a keen vintner, with his Pratum Coller winery producing four varieties. Eos, the rosé, has won plenty of plaudits for its "structure and mature aromas".

Will there be any rehearsed goal celebrations?
Francesco Totti's thumb sucking, Luca Toni's ear cupping and (probably) Alberto Gilardino's violin playing are all now consigned to YouTube. Balotelli might do his stroppy standing still thing or, should Roma's Fabio Borini make the trip, we could be treated to the sight of him biting his hand. It symbolises a dagger being placed between the teeth, apparently.

What will the media coverage be like?

RAI has exclusive rights to all games and is also planning four daily magazine shows of varying lengths. Their main commentator, Bruno Gentili, has been around for yonks, but is better known for his work on the radio. Not everyone enjoys his breathless delivery or strong Roman accent. Fabio Capello has been lined up for punditry duties and he is rather good at it. Marcello Lippi could also be commentating as well.

Will there be many fans travelling to the finals?
Probably not. Italy's travelling fans will be comfortably outnumbered by the Irish and Croatians fans in Poznan and the Spanish supporters in Gdansk. There is not a huge expat community in either Poland or, success at the group stage permitting, in Ukraine.

Will travelling fans have any chants or songs
Expect that wretched Seven Nation Army chant to make an unwelcome appearance should headway be made come the knockout games. Matthew Barker

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