World Cup 2014 Qualifying: A Preview of Italy's Qualifying Campaign

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World Cup 2014 Qualifying: A Preview of Italy's Qualifying Campaign
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Most people think of the World Cup as the one-month summer showpiece that draws in almost a sixth of the world's population to watch.  But the World Cup is much more than that.  In fact, the World Cup started last year, with the early stages of qualifying in regions like Oceania and Asia.

Now that the European Championships are over, Europe will embark on its qualification run, and one of the most intriguing stories will be whether or not Italy can capitalize on the unexpected success they found at Euro 2012 this summer.

It won't be easy.  Italy will have to confront the Group of Death in this qualifying tournament.  It's one of two groups that have three teams that qualified for Euro 2012—but unlike Group C, where Germany will have to deal with relatively weak teams from Sweden and Ireland, the Azzurri will have to face off against Denmark and the Czech Republic.

Both sides turned in impressive performances in the tournament, and present stiff challenges for an Italian side that will be looking to wipe out once and for all the stain that the last World Cup in South Africa left on Italian soccer.  The Euros helped it to fade, but to truly get it out Italy must tackle this World Cup head on, starting on September 7 with their first World Cup match since their embarrassing 3-2 loss to Slovakia completed their crash-out.

Let's take a look at both the Italians and the teams they will face as the free-for-all to reach the World Cup proper begins.

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