Cesare Prandelli accepts Italy are not the best team in the World Cup Finals, but insists they can still win a record-equalling fifth crown in Rio.
The Azzurri reached the Finals in Brazil in fairly comfortable fashion, winning six and drawing four of their qualifying matches to finish six points clear of Denmark in Group B. They are likely to find life a whole lot more difficult next summer, though, when they take on England, Uruguay and Costa Rica in Group D of the Finals.
Prandelli’s side are currently ninth favourites to win the tournament, according to odds comparison website oddschecker.com, with Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Colombia, France and the Uruguayans all rated more likely. However, whilst the head coach accepts there are likely to be some stiff tests ahead, he sees no reason why his side can’t upset the odds and equal Brazil’s haul of five World Cup wins.
“Our one is a really difficult group, with three national teams who have been world champion,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport. “The first aim is to qualify, probably as first of the group. Against England we have played a sensational game at the 2012 European Championship, but we didn’t score and we qualified at penalties.
“Against Uruguay we suffered in the second half of the final for the third place at the Confederations Cup and we won again at penalties. Anyone talks about Costa Rica, but I’ve started studying them. The World Cup has already started. Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Spain are the favourites. Let’s leave from our mind that we are the strongest; we aren’t. We are no more the best in the tournament but we can beat the best.”
The absolute minimum expected from the Italian public will be a run to the quarter-finals, and they will certainly look for a significant improvement on their showing of four years ago in South Africa when Marcello Lippi’s side embarrassingly crashed at the first hurdle, finishing bottom of a group containing Paraguay, Slovakia and New Zealand.