By Thomas Carrozzier

It has been a long wait for Italian soccer fans. Twenty years have passed since the last time Italy has had the privilege of lifting the most prestigious trophy of all: the World Cup. This, along with the significant amount of confidence that Italians retain in this year’s team, puts a great deal of pressure on the 23 players selected to represent their nation in the 2002 World Cup.

Fear of success could very well pose a threat to Italy’s plans in the event. However, if that obstacle can be overcome with the professionalism of players that rank among the best in the world, then Italy’s chances increase substantially.

Noteworthy is the fact that the azzurri were drawn into an easier group compared with other favored teams. Croatia is strong, but Ecuador and Mexico are not exactly considered the cream of the crop of world football. These latter teams are also used to playing home games at altitudes of about 7,000 feet, and their game will undoubtedly suffer in Japanese stadiums located at sea level.

As always Italy’s main strength is defence, and a strong backbone will ensure, that phenomenal goal scorers such as Christian Vieri and Vincenzo Montella will be able to concentrate on what they do best, without having to come back. The key in Italy’s game is Francesco Totti, the classic number ten, who can cut the field with precise passes, and who can cause havoc in any defence with his creativity and flair.

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