Facts & figures: Italy
Previous appearances in finals: 16
Best performance: Winners 1934, 1938, 1982, 2006
Runners-up: 1970, 1994
Marcello Lippi led Italy to World Cup glory in 2006 before resigning and then returning after Roberto Donadoni's sacking following a poor Euro 2008.
The former Juventus coach was hailed in 2006 after using a match-fixing scandal engulfing the country to bring his players together and guide a modest side to victory.
Has since lost some public backing after refusing to pick Sampdoria playmaker Antonio Cassano.
Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan). Age: 30. Midfielder.
The World Cup winner has recently played much further forward for Italy than Milan and is the side's main creative force given that Cassano has been overlooked. His form has dipped in the last few years but is still a pass master.
Fabio Cannavaro (Juventus). Age: 36. Defender.
The most-capped Italian player of all time (131) will almost certainly quit international football after the World Cup but the tough-tackling, calm captain is determined to do well after missing Euro 2008 through injury.
Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus). Age: 31. Goalkeeper.
Still regarded in Italy as the world's best goalkeeper, he rarely makes a mistake and can pull off remarkable saves despite suffering a string of niggles.
FIFA world ranking November 2009: 4
How they qualified:
Finished top of their qualifying group without losing a game but three draws and some lacklustre performances from the ageing team led to media criticism. A handful of younger players could make the World Cup squad.
The holders are a long way from being favourites because of a lack of creativity and an unsettled strike force. Fiorentina's Alberto Gilardino is likely to be their main striker in a 4-4-2 formation with the fitness of Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio key to the left-wing spot.