Group C: Italy Ã¢ÂÂ The Bookmakers' Favourites
The Back of the Net boys continue their light-hearted look ahead to Euro 2012. Here, John Foster on a team who have historically reacted well to scandal-based adversity: Italy...
After another disappointing season in Europe for Italian club sides, and another betting scandal that has rocked Serie A, Italian football would seem to be in disarray. But given the quality of players available, to bet against them would be foolish. Unless, say, you happened to have a particularly powerful hunch that you could guess all their match results in advance.
Tournament pedigreeWinners as tournament hosts in 1968, Italy came closest to glory again in 2000, when a team led by Paolo Maldini, Fabio Cannavaro and Alessandro Nesta lost in the final to France. The winning goal was scored by David Trezeguet, whom Italy had left unmarked in the belief he was Argentinian.
Road to Poland and UkraineItaly cruised to qualification, conceding just two goals along the way. Suspicions were raised before their clash with Northern Ireland over heavy betting patterns in favour of the Ulstermen, but despite the goalkeeper spending much of the second half in the centre circle, and ItalyÃ¢ÂÂs concession of 12 penalties, the match finished goalless.
Man to watchThe Italian back line is built around shambling defensive ogre Giorgio Chiellini, the Juventus star representing a marked departure from the days of dreamy, clean-cut beefcakes like Maldini and Nesta. The horrifyingly misshapen Chiellini will be hoping to repulse all-comers, either with his masterful reading of the game, or by gurning at them till theyÃ¢ÂÂre sick.
ColoursItaly will be in their traditional blue, as reflected in the teamÃ¢ÂÂs nickname, the Azzurri (the Blues). This rather literal approach to nicknames extends to many club sides too, so that Milan are known as the Rossoneri (the Red-and-Blacks), Inter as the Nerazzurri (the Black-and-Blues), and Bradford City as the Mocciosanguinati (the Streaks of Bloodied Snot).
Worth a bet?Better ask them.
More from Back of the NetGroup A: Poland Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Russia Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Greece Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Czech RepublicGroup B: Netherlands Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Germany Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Portugal Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Denmark Group C: Spain Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Italy Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Croatia Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Republic of Ireland Group D: Ukraine Ã¢ÂÂ¢ England Ã¢ÂÂ¢ France Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Sweden