THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

wsc328 previewWhat are the expectations for the team?
Reaching the final of Euro 2012 and a good showing at the Confederations Cup last year have raised some hopes for a successful run to the latter stages in Brazil. However, the idea of the hosts or Spain potentially awaiting once the group stage has been navigated has restricted any optimism.

Is the coach popular?
Yes he is. Cesare Prandelli agreed to a new two-year deal in March, to the relief of many, and remains Italian football's conscience, with his much-lauded "ethical code", dropping players if they've misbehaved on or off the pitch, setting a disciplinary standard that few other international managers could hope to get away with.

Are there any players who have appeared in advertising?
Fairly quiet at the time of writing, though Prandelli has a starring role publicising an energy company. However, 1982 World Cup-winner Paolo Rossi's performance in an ad for a leading credit card company, gulping anxiously as he sits in a Rio barbershop chair while the razor-wielding proprietor bursts into tears, then spluttering rage, after recognising him, is a thing of great beauty.

Which players are good interviewees and who are worst?
Giorgio Chiellini may look a bit of a bruiser on the pitch, but he's generally cheery off it and happy to chat. Sadly, it's the younger bunch who tend to hide behind banalities. Marco Verratti can be polite but sometimes hard work, ditto Ciro Immobile. Mario Balotelli is guaranteed to have at least one corker of a press conference (and to post one stroppy tweet).

Any players with unusual hobbies or business interests?
Leather-clad hollering rocker Pablo Osvaldo isn't the only musical member of the squad: Gigi Buffon has been learning the guitar for over a year now, which, he says, "has caused huge rows among the family".

Is there a World Cup song?
Rock band Negramaro will be covering the stirring 1976 song Un Amore Cosi Grande (A Love So Great). Unfortunately (or not), at the time of writing I've yet to hear their version, though it promises to be a neck-bulging power ballad, complete with screeching guitar solo.

Will there be any rehearsed goal celebrations?
Balotelli may well opt for the shirt-off-muscle-flexing-scowl, but elsewhere look out for general pile-ons and, depending on how the mood takes him, Andrea Pirlo's big hairy man bellow, finger-point or leaping fist-pump.

What will the media coverage be like?
State broadcaster RAI is cutting back on its coverage (as it is with all live sports), but will show 25 games, as well as daily round-up and magazine shows, including Dribbling Mondiale. Pundits are yet to be announced. Sky will be showing all games, boasting the Paolo Rossi-Gianluca Vialli dream-team.

Will there be many fans travelling to the finals?
Not a huge amount, they never really do, but there will be a decent turnout from the ex-pat and second-generation Italian communities in larger Brazilian cities. However, this Italy team, and Prandelli in particular, do generate goodwill somewhat lacking in previous incarnations (maybe the relative shortage of Juventus players helps) meaning an enthusiastic following back home.

What is the local view of the England team?
There were plenty of grumbles in the press when Group D was announced, but most of the concerns were about Uruguay and, in particular, Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani. Prandelli has given Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling a shoutout, but Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney are still seen by most as England's key players. Scoff all you want, but there remains a romance about gli inglesi and their up-and-at-'em physicality and quaint keep-going-till-the-final-whistle spirit. Few really believe it'll stand them in much good stead in the heat and humidity of Manaus, however. Matthew Barker

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