But confident of reaching last 16
9 December ~ Italy pay the price! was the front page headline in La Gazzetta dello Sport the day after the World Cup draw, an indication of how a group with Uruguay, England and Costa Rica was received by the country's football media. "Zinedine Zidane headbutts us again," the paper continued, comparing the Frenchman having drawn Italy as the floating European side in the draw to his assault on Marco Materazzi in the 2006 World Cup final.
Italians are angry not only at the group, but with the procedures introduced by FIFA before the draw that ended up favouring France; the lowest European qualifier in the FIFA rankings have ended up in the least difficult group, with Switzerland, Honduras and Ecuador.
Italy manager Cesare Prandelli, however, blamed his team primarily, for not winning the last game in the group qualifiers at home against Armenia, one that could have guaranteed a place as a top seed. "Honestly, I am more worried about the climate in Manaus, where we have to play against England in the first match, and for all the kilometres," Prandelli said. With the Azzurri's base being near Rio de Janeiro, they will have to travel a total of 6,822 kilometers for matches in Manaus, Recife and Natal.
Lorenzo Cazzaniga, editor of Football Italia magazine, had a different view of the draw: "I am quite happy about it and I think we have good chances of going through. We will be playing one of the weakest English teams in history, and we can't be afraid of them. I think Uruguay and England both have good attacks but defensively they have a lot of problems".
He also identified the climate as a problem. "I am more scared of playing England in Manuas. The Italians have never been the best athletes in international tournaments in the past, and in a place like that, we can suffer a lot. Still, it will be the first match of the World Cup, so we shouldn't be tired beforehand."
Italy have played England three times in previous international tournaments, winning at the Euros in 1980 and 2012, and in the World Cup third-place match in 1990 which, like the first Euro encounter, was at home in Italy. There seems to be general confidence that the team can get through to the knockout stage but watching our neighbours from across the Alps in their group will be painful. Luca Ferrato