How they qualified: Italy surged through Group B unbeaten. Historically pragmatic in qualifying, Cesare Prandelli has overseen something of a mini revolution for La Nazionale. Italy are a different prospect these days, and one no longer defined by their cautious catenaccio tag.
World Cup pedigree: More purring Ferrari than battered Fiat. This will be Italy's 14th consecutive appearance at a World Cup finals, and with four wins (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006) and two runner-up positions on the board, they are second only to Brazil in terms of success.
Main man: Master craftsman Andrea Pirlo has had a renaissance since moving from Milan to Juventus – the same goes for his international career. His legs may be going, but Pirlo's playmaking remains world-class.
One to watch: Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne has the X Factor and will bring plenty of flair to the Italian set-up. He's capable of the spectacular and if Prandelli uses him from the bench correctly he could change games the way the enigmatic Antonio Cassano used to for the Azzurri.
What are their chances? Italy usually find a way to stay alive in major tournaments, often overachieving with the players at their disposal – it's a special skill and one Group D opponents England could do with learning. But the influx of fresh young talent, combined with the wise heads of Pirlo and keeper Gianluigi Buffon, plus the Prandelli factor, makes this Italy side a genuinely exciting prospect… there, we got through this preview and didn't even mention Mario Balotelli. Oh.
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon, Salvatore Sirigu, Mattia Perin
Defenders: Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorigo Chiellini, Gabriel Paletta, Andrea Ranocchia, Ignazio Abate, Mattia De Sciglio, Christian Maggio, Matteo Darmian, Manuel Pasqual
Midfielders: Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti, Riccardo Montolivo, Daniele De Rossi, Antonio Candreva, Marco Parolo, Alberto Aquilani, Romulo
Forwards: Mario Balotelli, Antonio Cassano, Alessio Cerci, Ciro Immobile, Giuseppe Rossi, Mattia Destro, Lorenzo Insigne