Italy enters Euro 2012 with the hope of shaking off their dreadful performance at the 2010 World Cup.
In their title defense, the Azzurri drew to Paraguay and also shockingly stalemated with New Zealand. Their final group game, a 3-2 loss to Slovakia, cast them into last place in their group.
It was the first time the four-time world champions went winless at a World Cup. The early exit was a painful and job-costing one for then-manager Marcello Lippi, and the bitter end to international duty for a few members of Italy's golden generation.
Lippi's replacement, Cesare Prandelli, has revitalized the national squad by injecting youth into a system that favors attack-minded football. Italy cruised through their qualification group on the strength of their trademark defense, conceding only two goals in 10 matches, but also entertained with doses of attractive attacking tactics and skillful passing.
What awaits the Italians in Poland and the Ukraine is still a matter of some debate. Is it too early for a new batch of talent to emerge under the intense scrutiny of a passionate public and frenetic media?
Italy has intriguing and challenging fixtures in Group C. They face not only the defending champions, Spain, but also Croatia and an Ireland team that may lack in star power but is managed by Giovanni Trappatoni, an Italian with intimate knowledge of calcio all'Italiana.